The story goes that director Gee Malik Linton had his director’s credit removed from Exposed because of production company Lionsgate’s extensive meddling in the editing process which, he claimed, turned his work from a small “60% Spanish-language” movie into a “boilerplate action thriller” in which the relatively small role of troubled cop Scott Galban had been considerably expanded to accommodate its star, Keanu Reeves (John Wick, Knock, Knock). Linton remains credited as the film’s screenwriter and co-producer, however, which is perhaps a reflection of the fact that it is the choppiness of the editing and the clumsy forcing together of two plots which stubbornly refuse to interlock that are the film’s biggest problem. Either way, a director disowning his own film is always a sure-fire sign of a clunker and, despite signs that Linton’s original version would have provided a much more nuanced examination of a damaged psyche, Exposed does nothing to disprove that theory.
Reeves plays Galban, a police detective struggling to cope with life following the death of his wife. Having shipped his young son out to Florida, he now has to come to terms with the death of his partner, Detective Joey Cullen (Danny Hoch – 3 A.M., Ted), and adjust to life with new partner, Ramirez (Director Linton’s wife, Melissa). Cullen was stabbed to death in a subway station after taking snaps of suspects outside a nightclub late one night. These photographs provide the starting point for Galban’s investigation, but things are complicated by the fact that Cullen was something of a scumbag, and digging too deep into his murder is likely to uncover evidence which will result in his widow (Mira Sorvino – The Stuff, Mimic) losing her dead husband’s pension. Meanwhile, young Hispanic nursery school teacher, Isabel de la Cruz (Ana de Armas – Knock Knock), one of the people in Cullen’s photograph, starts seeing strange ghost-like apparitions, beginning with a strange man who somehow floats in mid-air after stepping off the platform of the same subway station in which Cullen was killed.
The link between these sub-plots is obvious, but they feel so detached from one another that watching Isabel’s and Galban’s stories is like dividing our attention between two different movies. Linton’s original intention that the focus remain firmly on Isabel is apparent in the way that it’s only in her story that we find any resonance or intrigue. Paradoxically, while Isabel appears to be a more open character, she’s the one who internalises her feelings, while the more withdrawn Galban’s pain is plain to see. But Reeves’ damaged police officer is cast from a mould so over-used that its features have worn smooth over time, rendering Galban indistinguishable from countless predecessors from earlier movies. And his issues remain largely unresolved, as if the movie is unconcerned about his fate once it has unraveled the mystery behind Isabel’s ghostly visions.
There’s a good idea at the core of Exposed (which was originally to be called Daughter of God), but its clunky construction and poor execution justify Malik’s decision to disown it. Usually, two co-existent storylines come together at some point, but in Exposed they never do. Galban and Isabel might meet in the final scene but they barely interact, and neither do their stories, a fact which bears out Linton’s assertion that the original story focused on Isabel rather than Galban. Perhaps, one day, we will see a director’s cut but, until that day, Exposed will have to be considered a dud.