Exposed (2016)

(Video on Demand, April 2016) What if you called for a police thriller and a psychological drama showed up? That was my first reaction after seeing the underwhelming Exposed, but after reading up on the film it turns out that the reverse is a pretty good explanation for what actually happened. Originally conceived as “Daughter of God”, a psychological drama with a minor police subplot, Exposed was radically restructured to put emphasis on the police subplot, leaving the rest of the film sticking out incongruously. (The director even took his name off the results.) It shows almost from the first few minutes, which presents what turns out to be a not-particularly objective sequence before the rules of the film have been set. The rest of the film feels a few frames away from a horror film, but turn out to have a rational explanation as long as your definition of “rational” includes hallucinations, twisted psyches and a gritty detour to the lower rungs of what humans are capable of doing to each other. It shouldn’t be surprising if the result ends up being a mess, and not a particularly likable one. The editing drags on, cuts weirdly and doesn’t do itself any favours with a deliberately off-putting mindscape even as viewers are conditioned to expect a straightforward police thriller. It really doesn’t help that Exposed ends abruptly, without tackling any of the consequences of what’s coming to the characters after the movie ends. A few good things do remain in the wreckage: a clean-cut Keanu Reeves isn’t a bad thing to watch (although his character doesn’t get any payoff from the cut-short ending). This is the first time I’ve seen Mira Sorvino show up in a movie in a long time, and the years have been kind to her, enabling her to play a minor role with far more gravitas than she would have been able to do a decade ago. But it’s Ana de Armas who shines in the lead role, doing well with a difficult character. Otherwise, the film just feels odd, and not in a deliberate way. The shift from police investigation to psychological horror could have worked with more forethought (I’m thinking about The Tall Man as an example) but here the film shows clear signs of production improvisation and it doesn’t take a tour through the film’s troubled production history to see the results of such tinkering on-screen.

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