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Review: Keanu Reeves is stranded in the low-energy romantic thrills of 'Siberia'

Review: Keanu Reeves is stranded in the low-energy romantic thrills of 'Siberia'
Keanu Reeves and Ana Ularu in the movie "Siberia." (Allen Fraser / Saban Films)

Keanu Reeves and Molly Ringwald, together again for the first time since, well, never. Unlikely costars despite being actors of the same generation, they play husband and wife in "Siberia" — though their collaboration, like many things about this puzzling film, is not what it seems.

Despite acting as spouses, Reeves and Ringwald have only two brief scenes together, neither one of which is anything to write home about. Which is more or less the story with the film as a whole, which starts out promising but can't really deliver on its serious intentions.

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Reeves may be best known these days for his two "John Wick" movies (a third is on the way), but those expecting another violence-laden legendary assassin role are going to be disappointed.

Instead Reeves plays diamond merchant Lucas Hill, a well-heeled habitué of private jets with a nicely trimmed beard and the expensive wardrobe to match. Lucas has picked up some combat skills along the way, but a member of the killer elite he is not.

Similarly, while "Siberia" has designs on combining thriller elements with a serious romantic drama about love, commitment and masculine codes of honor, it doesn't work out that way.

As written by Scott B. Smith ("A Simple Plan") from an idea hatched by Reeves' business partner Stephen Hamel and Smith, "Siberia" does benefit, as all of his films do, from Reeves' restrained presence.

A master of charismatic nonchalance, Reeves is as usual a man of few words, and in this case many of them are in Russian.

When Lucas says to another character, "You're not much of a talker, are you," it plays like the inside joke it undoubtedly is.

Lucas speaks Russian because that's where some of his best customers are. In this case he's soon in St. Petersburg, expecting to hook up with his partner Pyotr and make a $50-million sale of ultra-rare blue diamonds.

But Pyotr has disappeared, the diamonds are nowhere to be found, and Lucas has to take an empty-handed meeting with his impatient customer.

That would be Boris Volkov, one of those ruthless Russian gangsters with unsmiling bodyguards that are all but omnipresent in films these days. Pasha Lychnikoff, a veteran of episodic TV from "Miami Vice" to "Deadwood," brings enough brio to the part to make having him as the villain de jour a plus.

With the violence-prone Boris not exactly the picture of patience, Lucas takes a chartered jet to Mirny, a mining town in Siberia where Pyotr might be hanging out. (Though the locations look appropriately frigid, everything, except for the streets of St. Petersburg, was shot in Manitoba.)

It's there that Lucas has a meet cute with local cafe owner Katya (Romanian actress Ana Ularu) when he saves her from the attentions of an inebriated would-be flasher.

Though it doesn't happen immediately, because these two are the best-looking folks in the film, their hookup is preordained. In fact, this is the rare Reeves film that has more sex than violence, though one of the sex scenes has enough coercive elements to make it distinctly disturbing.

But because Lucas is married (even if the bloom is definitely off the rose in that relationship) and because Katya has a protective, hyper-vigilant brother (Dmitry Chepovetsky), a lot of agonizing has to happen before the inevitable happens.

Despite its pro-forma nature, the setup for "Siberia" — a lone hero in over his head in an unfamiliar world — actually starts out well but refuses to play out in satisfying ways.

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The film's plot manages to become complicated and hard to follow and the romance between Lucas and Katya, though undeniably physical, does not catch fire emotionally the way it should.

In fact, "Siberia's" script seems more interested in its numerous scenes of male bonding, which are not as involving as the filmmakers would like to think.

Scenes of bear hunting and macho teasing and lines like "You are a terrible man but an excellent friend" may have sounded good in the planning stage, but sources of excitement they are not.

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'Siberia'

Rating: R, for strong sexual content, nudity, language, some violence and drug use

Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes

Playing: Opens July 13 at AMC CityWalk 19; also available via video on demand

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