Keanu Reeves bides his time between John Wick films in Siberia as a diamond dealer up against some bad folks intent on upending his deal. Despite all the elements of a great thriller in play, the film is oddly flat and stilted with only a few characters ever coming to life and plot entanglements repeatedly put on hold for some gratuitous T&A. A sense of urgency would have made this film something worth the time instead of just passing it. Lionsgate brings Siberia to Blu-ray in fine order with a solid A/V presentation ankled by a lackluster bonus feature package. Unless you're in need of some Reeves, you can Skip It.
Part of what I love about location-based thrillers is that they showcase a part of the world that most folks will never experience. The hero is a fish-out-of-water who doesn't have the lay of the land surrounded by strange people and customs without a command of the language. They're isolated and alone in a dangerous situation that just adds more tension to an already tense situation. If director Matthew Ross' Siberia had played with that idea a little more, it could have helped give the film some narrative thrust. Instead, we watch Keanu Reeves roll in full autopilot through this unfortunately flat and timid thriller as a diamond dealer who has angered the wrong people -- but still has time to make it with a beautiful local gal.
The diamond world is cutthroat. It's competitive, expensive, and dangerous enough that if you screw the wrong people you may end up dead in a ditch. Veteran diamond dealer Lucas Hill (Keanu Reeves) knows this full well as he travels to Russia to close a lucrative deal for some rare blue diamonds. His buyer Boris Volkov (Pasha D. Lunchnikoff) is more than a little miffed that the deal is taking so long. The problem is Lucas' middleman Pyotr has gone missing with the sample diamond and is the only man who knows where the loot is. Traveling to a remote Siberian town, Lucas hopes to locate his partner but instead finds a beautiful local café owner named Christa (Ashley St. George). Lucas finds himself against the ropes and in increasing danger as more men arrive searching for the diamonds he doesn't have.
On paper, Siberia should work. It's got a dangerous McGuffin with the diamonds. A mission to find Pyotr who has the diamonds. The beautiful femme fatal Christa who may have her own ulterior motives. And there is a whole heap of bad guys who want what Lucas has to offer. Caught up in this plot web is a guy who just wants to close the deal but things increasingly go from bad to much, much worse. After a great opening few moments, the film hits the breaks hard and never recovers.
My biggest issue (of many) with the film is that Reeves' Lucas Hill is a little too in his element. Traveling to Russia, he should be an alien, someone firmly outside of his comfort zone, but instead it's business as usual. He has a firm command of the language making menacing conversations from Russian bad dudes not all that menacing. Then the film makes the fatal mistake as the search for Pyotr and the blue diamonds gets trunked to a dead stop when Lucas starts romancing Christa. It's not a surprise, but a fleeting fling turns repetitive with frequent trips to the bedroom and virtually kills any and all tension as the film aims to switch gears from a thriller to a tragic romance that doesn't resonate.
All the time I was watching Siberia I kept thinking of Frantic and how well executed that film was. It's a similar enough story with the main character in possession of something some bad people want who happens to also meet a beautiful and willing young woman to help him out of his jam. Frantic worked because Roman Polanski knew well enough to hold things back and keep the film focused. It didn't let itself get bogged down. It kept its focus on the destination and the danger. In contrast, Siberia almost felt bored with itself and so it decided to get tacky and play up the T&A to the point that it did more harm than good. If the movie is bored with itself you can't expect the audience to care.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Siberia slips and slides onto Blu-ray courtesy of Lionsgate Films in a single disc Blu-ray + Digital set. The film is pressed onto a Region A BD-50 disc and comes packed in an eco-friendly case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads to trailers for upcoming releases before arriving at a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
While Siberia may not be an interesting movie, it does offer up some impressive visuals to feed its 2.39:1 1080p transfer. Shot in Canada to double for the deep Russian tundra, the film enjoys some beautiful scenic locations while displaying a pleasing range of color, contrast, and black levels. Details are appropriately robust allowing you to appreciate facial features, clothing, as well as the film's production design work. Colors are slightly on the yellow drab side at times, but there is plenty of natural lighting to give the image a good range of primaries. Whites are especially vibrant with a stable presence without blooming. Black levels are on point dipping to some nice and inky tones giving the image a great sense of depth. All around this is an impressive looking image.
Packed with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, Siberia really only makes tangential usage of its surrounds. Most of the film plays fairly front and center with only a few bursts of notable surround activity. There is a nice sense of atmosphere to the mix, but there really isn't a whole lot in terms of dynamic sound effects to pull your attention in one direction or the other. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and the film's score helps round out the mix and maintain the sense of mood. It gets through the basics and that's about it.
Like most of these dash off releases, Siberia doesn't pack much of a bonus feature package. The film's lone bonus is more or less an EPK talking head segment that's better suited as a YouTube promotional bit than a genuine piece of bonus content.
Taken as a whole, Siberia is simply a missed opportunity. The film could have been something of a solid pulp thriller, but the finished product is sadly void of thrills as it loads itself with misplaced dramatics. Reeves and St. George are an attractive onscreen pair, but the eye candy is hardly enough to sustain interest. Lionsgate Films delivers a technically solid release for Siberia with a pleasing A/V presentation. Bonus features are forgettably unimportant. There are better Keanu Reeves fronted thrillers out there so you're safe from making an effort here. Probably best you Skip It.