The Locksmith has all the makings of an independent film, right down to its rookie director Nicolas Harvard, budget cinema writer Joe Russo (not that Joe Russo), and non-traditional setting (it was filmed in New Mexico). But it also boasts some big names like Ryan Phillippe (Shooter), Kate Bosworth (Superman Returns), and Ving Rhames (Mission Impossible film series). As you watch the film, you see this almost tug-of-war play out on screen, as the veteran actors try to translate what the newcomers are saying. The result is shaky, with plenty of good to keep you watching but enough misses that leave you walking away from the film wanting more.
The Locksmith introduces us to Miller (Phillippe), a thief whose primary skill is a, you guessed it, locksmith. Aided by his best friend Kevin (George Akram) and corrupt detective Ian Zwick (Jeffrey Nordling, 24), Miller uses his quick hands to steal whatever score is available to them in their small town, but his life is turned upside down when Zwick betrays them, murders Kevin in cold blood and arrests Miller, keeping the loot for himself.
The movie picks up with Miller being released from prison and looking to go straight under the guidance of Frank (Rhames) so that he can reunite with his daughter Lindsay (Madeleine Guilbot) andex-girlfriend Beth (Bosworth), who happens to be a police detective and co-worker of Ian. Unfortunately for Miller, fate has other plans for him, as Kevin’s sister April (Gabriela Quezada), still struggling after the death of her brother, guilts him into using his skills one last time to help her get on her feet. Not helping matters is a retiring Ian and his two fellow corrupt detectives seemingly on Miller’s back every time he turns around.
The Locksmith does not attempt to reinvent the wheel. On the contrary, it embraces the norms of the genre. Where it succeeds is in the details. This starts with Phillippe, who is uncomfortable every moment on screen except the few he shares alone with his daughter. This is a wonderful example of showing, not telling. Reacclimating outside the walls of a prison is no easy task for anyone, but it’s especially difficult for Miller who clearly misses the thrills of his former life. Quezada also gives her best effort as grieving sister April. Miller may be the protagonist, but April’s plight is arguably the heart of the film. She ties everything together.
The biggest compliment I can give to this film is that it holds up under the scrutiny of a re-watch. Knowing the twists and turns it takes, every character’s actions make sense. Good character writing is valuable, but a thriller needs to engage the viewer. The Locksmith definitely lulls in the second act, but for the most part there is enough action to hold most viewer’s attention the whole way through.
However, something is definitely missing. Recycling old plots and themes is hardly a sin in today’s movie climate. But The Locksmith leaves you wanting more. The movie is a satisfying watch, but it is almost too basic. It is as if the script were written by artificial intelligence. Everything is wrapped in a perfect little bow, capped off by Lindsay using the skills she learned from her father in the climactic scene. Everything makes sense, and you want that in a movie. Nevertheless, the lack of any real surprises prevents The Locksmith from untethering itself from its genre frame.
The Locksmith is available now on Video On Demand platforms.