UNLOCKED: An Action-Packed Escapade That Falls Flat
Despite some well-directed action sequences, Unlocked is mostly fleeting entertainment, inserting nothing new into a tired-out spy genre.
With an action-fuelled, raw-edge trailer and an all-star cast full of highly regarded actors, Unlocked showed a lot of early promise. However, the reality of the situation is quite the contrary. Like many action movies of its kind that came before it, Unlocked has failed to grasp a story-line with enough depth to keep us fixated throughout. In other words, it quashes all hope of thrill or excitement – and instead, falls totally flat.
Whilst it could be said that creating a new action-packed thriller that manages to steer away from the conventional is tricky, this particular production had directing marvel Michael Apted behind the wheel, so needless to say expectations were high.
His previous work makes for an impressive resume. He was once at the helm of one of the Chronicles Of Narnia instalments, as well as one of the most infamous James Bond classics; The World Is Not Enough starring Pierce Brosnan. But this merely scratches the surface of what Michael Apted is capable of; as his directing inventory is stacked with timeless movies that host a remarkable talent-pool of incredible actors.
In that respect, Unlocked is not much different. With stars such as Orlando Bloom, Noomi Rapace, Toni Collette and Michael Douglas involved, the film was in a positive place to make a credible impression with critics and audiences alike.
Instead, it proved to be a bit of a misstep in Apted’s noteworthy career.
In a choppy and uneven interpretation of what feels a bit like a Bourne remake, CIA agent, Alice Racine, is working undercover in a Hackney community centre in London. When keeping her eyes peeled for terrorists, she’s contacted by a London police station and asked to interrogate a suspect. After being tricked to provide information to the wrong side, she soon finds herself at the centre of a devastating biological attack on the city.
With the double crosses flying thick and fast, Alice is increasingly unsure of who she can trust. This is where the intended suspense and welcomed tension is supposed to arrive in floods for us as a viewer; but you should be fully prepared to give up on that sentiment fairly early on.
In an almost laughable sense, Unlocked fails to resemble genuine thrills, mainly down to the fact that it’s too predictable to remain gripping. This is the primary issue with the entire narrative, and is where the film falls mostly short.
I wish I could say that it’s like no other action movie we’ve seen before, but I’d be kidding myself. Because asides from a few fake over-the-top cockney accents, there is nothing in Unlocked that differentiates from the standard action movie ideologies and expectations.
For the first half an hour, it is serviceable and efficient enough to be considered a half-decent thriller, studded with pleasing cameos. But then Orlando Bloom shows up as the mysterious ex-military bruiser, and the excitement of the plot goes sideways quite quickly. Not only is Bloom’s performance a bit off-beat to say the least, but his character is also essentially surplus, stumbling randomly into the film and wandering off again long before the ending. It’s put in place in a sense that seems as though some studio executive or casting agent thought that the film needed a recognised leading man and roughly wrote Bloom in at the last minute – a choice that might appear eye-drawing on the posters but makes for a completely baffling viewing experience.
Unlocked embodies the typical flashes of action-fuelled drama throughout, but considering the currently sensitive subject of terrorism in London, you’d think that it would be an ultra-serious rendition of the horror we all feel in these testing times. However, this is far from the case. Steering clear of anything remotely similar to the epic tour-de-force of London Has Fallen, Unlocked appears to bat for humour at an unsuccessful attempt at making it seem slightly unique.
Injecting a few lines about Orlando Bloom‘s love for a good tagline – whilst witty – feels completely out of place. However, this isn’t a rarity in this film. Spells of silly one-liners and moments of comedy are added frequently to try and ease the non-existent tension of an otherwise dull script. When in reality, all it does is steer away from the possibility of the audience feeling the anticipation needed for a story like this to work.
Noomi Rapace has usually good form for no-nonsense action roles, and she’s entirely convincing in this film – more than capable of holding her own in a punch-up, or dropping goons with a single shot. Admittedly, she’s on less solid ground when it comes to the acting of powerful emotion. But with that in mind, any emotion in this film does take a bit of a backseat in general anyway.
Luckily, you don’t get to the wise age of 76 without knowing your way around a coherent action sequence, and Michael Apted does manage to deliver handsomely in that department, staging some refreshingly old-school fight scenes where you can actually tell who’s hitting who, and with what.
He maintains a fairly solid albeit slightly off-balance pace throughout, ensuring that the film isn’t completely sleep-inducing. The problem is, we’ve seen it all too many times before, and the familiar territory of action sequences and expected plot twists aren’t as shocking as they were intended to be. Even its open willingness to suddenly kill off secondary characters in a tactical bid to keep us on our toes isn’t very appealing or jaw-dropping.
Something that could be commended is the production of it all. The film makes strong use of some authentic London locations, including a nicely staged climax that takes place at Wembley stadium. Not only that, but the overall ambience and atmosphere of the movie is suited perfectly to the ominous plot – although it does slightly play up a little too much to the stereotypical darkness of derelict views of London.
Ultimately, the film itself feels a little bit like a condensed version of the hugely successful blockbusters we are used to, and had it been pushed a little further in terms of the script and the intensity, it could have had a chance at competing with them.
Unlocked is watchable, but perhaps only once; as it does veer dangerously close towards the so-bad-it’s-good category at times.
Do you think action movies are clutching at old straws or imitating typical conventions too much? Let us know in the comments!
Unlocked was released on May 5 in the UK and will see release in the US on September 1, 2017. See here for international release dates.
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