When he isn’t making entertaining movies like “The Matrix,” “Speed,” “The Devil’s Advocate,” “Point Break,” “Constantine,” “Street Kings,” “River’s Edge,” and those “John Wick” movies, Keanu Reeves occupies himself with movies so marginal they head straight to home video.  Anybody seen “Exposed” (2016), “The Whole Truth” (2016)  “Siberia” (2018), and/or “Destination Wedding” (2018)?  Surprisingly, “Traitor” director Jeffrey Nachmanoff’s half-baked, sci-fi/crime hybrid “Replicas” (* OUT OF ****), landed in theaters!  Clearly, with all its lapses of logic as well as its countless plot holes, “Replicas” should have missed theaters.  Imagine Keanu Reeves cast as a ‘mad scientist,’ and you’ll have the gist of this superficial, second-rate, B-movie thriller.

A gifted neuroscientist watches his wife and three children die tragically in an auto accident.  Taking his cues from Dr. Frankenstein, our grief-stricken protagonist turns a blind eye to ethics.  Not only does he dare to clone his family, but he also transplants their brains into those clones!  Clearly, this far-fetched, but lukewarm melodrama about human cloning and memory implantation bristles with pseudo-scientific dialogue.  Something about this movie lensed on location in Puerto Rico bothered me, because it was made before Hurricane Marie struck.  “Replicas” doesn’t do double-duty as a scenic vacation travelogue.  Rarely are we shown landmarks of distinction.  Indeed, it could have been shot in Florida, and nobody would have known otherwise.

Incidentally, the $30-million budgeted “Replicas” languished on the shelf for two years.  Apparently, the only reason it saw the light of day was Entertainment Studios paid a cool $4-million for it.  Despite its upbeat ending, Nachmanoff and “Peppermint” scenarist Chad St. John, working from an original idea by Stephen Hamel—Keanu’s partner at Company Films, have fashioned a wannabe Mike Crichton science project.  Interestingly, Reeves delivers a conscientious, straight-forward performance as the grieving scientist who overlooks the myriad obstacles involved in concealing the deaths in his family from the outside world.  Earlier movies like “Replicas” include “Godsend” (2004) about a father who wanted his deceased son brought back to life, “The Island” (2009), where clones were confined offshore, and “The Sixth Day” (2000) where the hero clones himself.  Meaning, there’s nothing new about the premise.

Dr. William Foster (Keanu Reeves of “Dangerous Liaisons”) conducts amoral biomedical research for a privately-owned company, Bionyne Industries, with its headquarters in Puerto Rico.  Foster has been struggling to implant the memories of a human being into a robot.  Foster’s colleague and close friend Ed Whittle (Thomas Middleditch of “The Campaign”) assists him with this research.  Ed provides the cloning expertise.  When “Replicas” opens, Foster transfers the mind of a dead soldier into an “I, Robot” like android.  Initially, the experiment shows signs of promise. However, the human brain rejects its robotic body and goes berserk.  Foster pulls the plug on it.  Foster’s boss, Mr. Jones (John Ortiz of “Kong: Skull Island”), warns him that he must achieve positive results, or Bionyne will shut them down permanently.  All of this occurs during the Christmas holidays, when Foster plans to take his wife, Mona (Alice Eve of “Men in Black 3”), and their three children: oldest daughter Sophie (Emily Alyn Lind), next-to-oldest Matt (Emjay Anthony), and youngest daughter Zoe (Aria Lyric Leabu), on an ocean cruise.

The night they leave for the harbor, a torrential storm swamps them.  Narrowly, they avoid a head-on collision with a tractor-trailer.  Without warning, a tree plunges through the front windshield and impales Mona through the chest like a pin stuck into a lab specimen.  Careening off the road, Foster plows into a pond.  His children drown before he can rescue them.  Rather than calling for an ambulance, Foster contacts his buddy Ed, and the two decide to attempt the impossible.  Secretly, they appropriate lots of high-tech Bionyne equipment without permission.  Foster extracts each’s consciousness and stores them, while Ed assembles three clone incubation pods.  Sadly, Foster realizes he will only be able to restore his wife and his oldest children.  He removes all traces of Zoe from their home.

Seventeen days elapse, and the clones emerge, virtually identical in physical resemblance.  Foster implants their minds into the clones.  During those seventeen days, Foster never realized to his chagrin that concealing the death of his family could have jeopardized his plans.  Essentially, he had to maintain a steady stream of social media data, so nobody would suspect that Mona, Sophie, and Matt were dead.  Afterward, Eve, Sophie, and Matt awaken none the worse for wear.  Interestingly, reconciles his lack of success in the lab with his success in cloning his family.  Meanwhile, poor Ed must dispose of their corpses.  Hovering suspiciously around Foster, Mr. Jones reminds him about the absolute critical need for success.  Abruptly, Foster cancels the second mind transfer.  Instead, he decides to use himself as a guinea pig, hiding in a toilet stall, enduring the torture, so he can be certain that his brain will accept the robot.

Rampant lapses in logic and plot holes sabotage “Replicas.”  Initially, after they install the clone incubation pods in Foster’s basement, Ed warns William that the power can never blink or fatal consequences will follow.  Sneaking around his neighborhood, Foster steals every car battery, and uses them to maintain a constant source of power!  The baffled local constabulary question Foster about this bizarre theft, but he claims to know nothing.  Meantime, Foster and Ed take it for granted that the Bionyne brass, particularly Mr. Jones, won’t discover their missing inventory.  Most of the scientific shenanigans here amount to utter hokum.  Indeed, “Replicas” seems like it would have fared better as a comedy of errors.  “The Wrap” classified “Replicas” as “the worst wide-release box office opening of his career.” “Business Insider” called it “the worst opening weekend for any Reeves movie that has opened on at least 2,000 screens.” The film grossed a feeble $3-million during its first week in release.  Mind you, “Replicas” doesn’t look like it will enjoy a long theatrical release, so you had better snap to it or wait for Redbox.  For the record, “Replicas” lasted for a week in Columbus, with about 20 tickets sold.

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