At one point in The Matrix, another character turns to Neo, played by Keanu Reeves and says "Change expression, damn you!" while kicking him repeatedly in the testicles. Reeves just stands there, staring blankly.
Okay, that doesn't really happen, but let's face it, a team of plastic surgeons couldn't change his expression. If he's angry, he stares blankly ahead. If he's sad, he stares blankly ahead. If he's confused, he stares blankly ahead. If you shot and barbecued his dog right in front of him, he stares blankly ahead. If he ever walked into K-Mart, stockboys would strip him and try to put the latest fall fashions on him, and then prop him on top of a clothing display. Anyone who puts them in their movie automatically has one massive problem to overcome.
So, Reeves sucks. He sucks pretty bad in this movie, but the movie itself, with a few qualifications, isn't that bad. As you can guess, it's largely a showcase for neato special effects, and it does that part quite admirably. However, it's an okay movie with an amazing movie struggling to get out.
It's difficult to talk about without spoiling major plot details, so I won't. Aw fuck, I will. If you're planning on seeing this anyway and don't want things ruined, read no further.
Basically, it's a cyberpunkish/Hong Kong action inspired movie. Fourteen year olds are going to go on about the original plot, because they've never read Philip K. Dick, or William Gibson, or other authors where the whole "reality conspiracy" thing is explored. If I'm not mistaken, the ancient Greeks did it first in their literature.
And it would be a great movie, but unfortunately it tries to be too many things, nonsensically. It tries to be John Woo, with far too many slow-mo action scenes. It tries to be cyberpunk, with lots of computer and neo-noir imagery. I'm not a big fan of cyberpunk, because I find too much of it is obviously meant to appeal to the 350 pound hacker who desperately wants a macho action life, and is fantasizing that the person he's IRCing with is not another 350 recluse but a hot babe in black vinyl with her navel pierced. But here the whole thing isn't too obtrusive. It also tries the ultimate conspiracy, one where the truth is so bleak you have to wonder if living a beautiful lie might not be better than the ugly truth.
And if they worked more with the ugly truth thing, there could be a lot going for it. It could be another Blade Runner, or Alien (As Jamie Kennedy says in Scream 2 "Ridley Scott rules.") But in order to fight the conspiracy, they are given things to do that don't make sense. If reality can be manipulated as they choose, how do they get injured and die? Their explanation doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Even Dreamscape had people "die" by going into cardiac arrest if they died in the dreamscape. What are guns to people who can alter the reality they're in? They're thinking in pretty narrow terms.
Also sticking out badly is talk of who will be "The One," so they try to get some hokey mystical stuff in there. This too completely clashes with everything that has gone before. If only the creators of Dark City had scripted it. That too was an effects showcase, but it had a fascinating plot and didn't degenerate into actions scenes to get the audience's attention.
Hell, I don't wanna get into it. Suffice it to say is that it's a Keanu Reeves movie, and I went in with low expectations, and came out pleasantly surprised. If you go see it, put the ol' brain into neutral., let the drool form at the corners of your mouth, and don't think about it too hard.
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