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Reeves plays NYC Detective Galban, whose partner is murdered under suspicious circumstances, stabbed repeatedly and left for trash. At every turn, he is met with dead ends, told by his captain to let it go, and confronted by the man’s widow with questions of why. The prime suspect in the case is drug kingpin Black (Big Daddy Kane), who is untouchable and himself on the hunt for Rocky (Gabe Vargas), a streetwise thug and brother-in-law to Isabel (Ana de Armas), a young Cuban woman living in the city while her husband serves in Iraq. Isabel is haunted by ghostly encounters that she at first believes are proof her husband will come home, but that soon test her faith. Rocky is getting pinned for the crime though he claims repeatedly that he is innocent. As Galban edges closer to the truth, he discovers his partner was a ruthless, corrupt cop that forces Galban to think about his own ethics, both on the job and at home.
Exposed wants to be a mystery, with Galban’s murdered partner the focus of the story, attempting to piece together a string of clues to discover why the man was killed. It then intercuts these moments with Isabel’s complicated hauntings, her continued visions of spectral figures who are clearly inhuman and seen only be her, teasing at some ethereal connection that never quite links it together. Instead, the movie plods along like a big budget television police procedural cut like it was meant to have commercial breaks but left without them. Scenes rigorously begin and end with exacting precision and unnecessary fade in and outs that feel distractingly crafted rather than authentic, though this is not entirely the actor’s fault. There is simply no motivation in the process, the experience flat-lined by a bland, paint-by-number approach that is the very definition of generic.
Credited to director ‘Declan Dale’, the name is a pseudonym for Gee Malik Linton, who had his name removed when the studio re-cut the project. Linton claims the film (called Daughter of God) was meant to be a dual language (Spanish/English) production focusing on the Isabel character and was to be a statement on violence against women and children and the injustices of the police but when Lionsgate received the picture, expected a police story with Reeves. He abandoned the film and it was edited into the now hopelessly standard cop drama.
This explains why the film lingers on Reeves for the majority of the story, attempting to put the strength of the film on his shoulders, a much more recognized star than any of the remaining cast. de Armas (who starred with Reeves in 2015’s Knock Knock – review), is good, speaking in Spanish for quite a bit, but it’s obvious the intent was to be centered on her role. Reeves looks good for the part, weathered, beleaguered, and a little sullen, and his acting style is well-suited for the detective, but he still manages to come across detached. There are some shining moments, and hints that this might have been a more nuanced performance, and perhaps the editing reduces it, but overall, it lacks the punch it should have. de Armas is a star in the making, but doesn’t give the tortured character the weight it deserves. She is charming to watch, has tremendous appeal, but simply isn’t able to project the life-long struggle she is meant to portray with the emotional need Isabel truly requires. Worst to come out of the editing is Mira Sorvino, who plays the widowed wife of the Galban’s partner. Dutifully tearful and accusatory, she is scattered mess of personality that comes and goes with predictability, but gives the viewer a herky-jery experience. We’re never quite sure what to make of her.
The ending comes but isn’t earned by any respect, trying to tie-together the two main plots with a ‘shock’ that underwhelms, mostly because it is forced. The ordeal is really frustrating given the talent on screen and the premise, which has potential. Blame might be given to the studio, but it’s hard to know where Linton left off and Lionsgate picked up, never really knowing if the debut director had something special.
Director: Declan Dale
Writers: Gee Malik Linton (screenplay), Declan Dale
Stars: Ana de Armas, Keanu Reeves, Christopher McDonald