A dead-serious version of “Groundhog Day” that mixes supernatural tidbits with slices of anarchic violence, “Repeaters” drifts into a flatlining exercise in pseudo-thrills long before its eventual moralistic ending. Busy Canadian director Carl Bessai brings little personal energy to a project about three people in a drug-rehab facility stuck reliving the same fateful day. High concept is what’s called for, but mildly familiar stuff is what’s delivered, though savvy marketing by the right buyer could goose opening weekend earnings and vid action.
The film’s grim intentions are announced pre-credits, with an onscreen Kafka quote: “Don’t wait for the Last Judgment. It happens every day.” As a means of starting their transitions to the outside world, recovering addicts/patients Kyle (Dustin Milligan), Sonia (Amanda Crew) and Michael (Richard de Klerk) are urged by supercilious counselor Bob (Ben Ratner) to take day passes and visit their loved ones.
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Predictably, the day doesn’t go well, starting with Kyle trying to apologize to alienated sister Charlotte (Alexia Fast) at her school, and being ordered to get off campus ASAP. Amanda can’t manage to work up the nerve to speak to her hospitalized father, whom she doesn’t realize is dying, while Michael is berated and cursed by his bitter convict father (John Tench), who blames him for his incarceration.
Emotionally worse off than ever, the trio finds that their day grows worse when Amanda is informed that her father is deceased. In a sequence that could have used a great deal more dazzle and power, an evening storm sets off a power surge that creates the conditions whereby the three begin to experience the day in constant replay.
That nobody even jokes that this feels like “Groundhog Day” indicates the movie’s straight-ahead attitude in service of pure genre thrills. In their own ways, Kyle, Sonia and Michael realize the “what if,” not the “why,” of their dilemma, and their varying responses to it turn “Repeaters” into a morality tale. While Kyle wants to make amends — and eventually get Charlotte away from the local drug dealer she’s hanging out with — and Sonia wants to do good by her dad, Michael takes the repeating cycle as license to go out and raise hell.
But the film doesn’t know where to go with its drama, reduced to little more than a standoff between the former friends. A routine sets in that harms the actors, who have their moments of emotional outbursts but generally go by rote until the all-too-neat conclusion.
As usual with Bessai’s films, the technical side of the ledger is first-rate, topped by Mark Shearer’s crucial rhythmic editing and the director’s own widescreen cinematography, enlivened with a stark color scheme.