Keanu Reeves directed this film, but what exactly was his role? (Call this a note to self: the answer will take some research.) The movie is in Chinese. The genre is Asian, as are the actors and settings. Reeves is working with collaborators from previous movies. The fight choreography is familiar. What is not familiar are the odd (and often oddly beautiful) moments like:
- The flicker effect that opens the film; several slow cuts through black; a dramatic time-lapse sequence; the weird and self-conscious white-screen transition to a dot.
- The beautifully ordinary cityscapes. Their muted warm colors contrast with the garish, vivid colors of the fight scenes in the show-within-a-show and with the dull greys and blacks of the the security firm. The changing color palettes suggest a carefully controlled visual style.
- The slow beautiful 360-degree pan from a rooftop that the final credits roll over.
Do these moments belong to Reeves? Are they a directorial signature? And if they do and they are, then what about the plotting, which is complex, tight and rapid? Does the tale well-told belong to Reeves as well? And if the visual flourishes, the colour and the plot all do belong to Reeves, then has he made a strong movie?
Reeves’s carefully cultivated star persona makes the answer an obvious (and obviously wrong) “no.”