FILM REVIEW: Problematic Keanu Reeves thriller ‘Exposed’ tells women to stay home at night
A deeply Catholic young woman named Isabel de la Cruz enters a deserted subway station on her own at night. As she awaits her train, she experiences inexplicable visions of religious bent, breaks the heel of her shoe, and loses her wedding ring. A few weeks later, she discovers she’s pregnant; immaculate conception, she assumes, having remained chaste since her husband left the States over a year ago to serve in Iraq. We also know that Joey Cullen, a dirty cop cum serial rapist, was killed in that same subway station on the same night; a murder to which Isabel was the sole witness. This is the setup for Exposed – the latest bilingual, paranormal, detective thriller starring Keanu Reeves, Ana De Armas and Mira Sorvino.
I’m not seeking to brag when I say I guessed the ‘twist’ to Exposed in its first quarter. Instead, this information is imperative to my criticism of the film. What does it say about the state of the world today when ‘unexpected’ themes of rape and child abuse are preempted from ten miles away? Or equally, why is it assumed that the audience could not possibly conceive of who so obviously killed Cullen on that fateful evening? The fact that the makers of this film consider its ending a shocking twist is truly insulting to the audience. As a side note, Keanu Reeves, playing the detective unable to crack the clear-as-day case, won’t be debunking his reputation for stupidity with this one. Yet maybe it doesn’t matter that the killer’s ‘mysterious’ identity is so heavily implied from the outset of the story? Let’s dig a little deeper.
Originally titled Daughter of God, Exposed was disowned by director Gee Malik Linton when Lionsgate Premiere significantly edited it without his permission, removing some of its more surreal elements in the attempt to make it a more commercial, straight-up crime thriller. I am told this by the internet, however after watching Exposed, I can’t imagine what the original cut might’ve been; in its current form, the film retains an abundance of cheaply rendered dreamlike visions, and nary a trace of narrative suspense.
More crucial to Exposed‘s fate than any other post-production edit, however, is its change of title. Reduction of syllables for presumed audience stupidity aside, the original title, Daughter of God, is much more befitting of the film’s thinly veiled message to women; stay home, be loyal to your man, nurture children, pray, and don’t go out on your own after dark, or you will get raped. I am forced to surmise that this is the main gist of Exposed, if for no other reason than the film’s paucity of any other substance. So many peripheral elements are thrown into the mix for no apparent reason that it’s actually kind of endearing – not least of these extraneous details being Reeves’ character, Scotty Galban. While we’re on the subject, somebody needs to tell these guys that shallow coincidence does not equal significance. To give a minor, non-spoiler example, why do Isabel and Galban go to buy the same unicorn toy at the same shop on the same day? They don’t meet, nor do they recognise one another at a later point in the movie. No explanation is given.
Coming in at two hours in duration, Exposed‘s one saving grace is that it never drags. For all its bad acting, hideous dialogue and seemingly random motifs, I can imagine this film joining the ranks of critically panned yet ironically beloved cult films along the lines of The Room and Troll II in ten years’ time. “Nobody likes you. You had one friend, and now he’s dead”, is one particularly memorable line from Cullen’s not-so-grieving wife (Mira Sorvino), who later forces herself sexually upon Reeves in spite of his repeated protestations. And never before has a dead dog scene been quite so unintentionally humorous.
On the whole, Exposed is a thoroughly problematic film presenting a wholly predictable storyline. Yet, in spite of my aspersions on its quality and values, I must admit it is rather enjoyable, and I would happily watch it again for the laughs.
Signature Entertainment presents Exposed at cinemas and on demand from 26th February 2016.
Read our interview with the cast of the film here.