Director Matthew Ross follows up his genre-splicing thriller Frank & Lola with Siberia, a more straightforward mix of suspense of romance. The film concerns Lucas Hill (Keanu Reeves), an American diamond trader whose business trip to Russia goes south almost immediately when his partner, Pyotr, can’t be found and he’s left to negotiate with an intimidating oligarch, Boris Volkov (Pasha D. Lychnikoff), using goods that may or may not be legitimate. As he becomes further enmeshed in a potential deadly situation, Hill also grows close with a local bar owner, Katya (Ana Ularu).
Ross focuses on either Hill’s business venture or romance with Katya for so long that the other plot loses its urgency, leaving the film’s overall structure feeling slack. Siberia belabors its narrative with repetitive elements like Hill coming into conflict with locals jealous of Katya’s interest in him, or of the trader leaving endless, angry voicemails to his unseen partner. Hill’s interactions with Katya tend to start as frosty, noirish exchanges between the two before the scene at hand abruptly cuts to them having sex.
Reeves, pulling from his work on the John Wick series, reacts to everything with grave stoicism, but where Wick is a hitman who’s been hardened by trauma, Hill is a more nebulous figure: clearly sharp-witted but nonetheless a more passive presence. As such, Hill’s unresponsiveness to the events and actions around him make the film seem even more leaden than it is.
Siberia has the tone and look of a direct-to-video feature, and some shots of Reeves are so waxen that the actor almost looks rotoscoped. Aggressive blue color timing gives the film a perfunctorily chilly tone that never communicates the bleakness of what it must be like to live in rural Russia in the winter. It also shares with the average DTV title a sense that nothing is being said. The various twists are all easy to spot and do nothing to challenge what we first learn about the characters, and for a film that tackles Russian oligarchs ruling territories like warlords while engaging in illegal trade, the whole thing feels bizarrely apolitical. Combined with its overriding lack of style or flair, Siberia is an inert bore that marks a step backward for its again-relevant star.