The Locksmith

Directed by: Nicolas Harvard
Distributed by: Screen Gems

Written by Michael Clawson

There’s a scene in “The Locksmith” where Ving Rhames, who plays a locksmith named Frank, sits in his shop and sings “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” with a fifth-grade girl. He’s watching her for a moment while her mother, played by Kate Bosworth, attends to adult business. We hear the song again in the movie’s closing scene, where in a kind of memorial gesture, the girl performs it during a piano recital. The banality of the song choice speaks to the dearth of creative inspiration that mires this crime thriller from director Nicholas Harvard.

Ryan Phillipe plays Miller Graham, an ace lock picker who tries to go straight after serving a ten-year prison sentence, only to be quickly sucked back into the shady world he’s trying to leave behind. It’s the timeworn premise of countless noirs (Michael Mann’s “Thief” was the first that came to my mind, for it too centers on a pro safecracker). “The Locksmith” underdelivers not because it recycles this familiar formula, but because it fails to inject the familiar with anything fresh, whether in terms of visual expression, script detail, or characterization.

Upon release from prison, Miller is haunted by the dirty cop, Ian Zwick (Jeffrey Nordling), who in the film’s opening robbery gone awry, betrays Miller and kills his pal Kevin. Zwick is ruthlessly determined to make sure Miller stays quiet about Zwick’s crookedness, and Miller is inclined to oblige him – Miller’s priority is to make amends with Beth (Bosworth), his ex-girlfriend, and reconnect with their daughter, not to settle scores or expose police corruption. But Miller’s effort to keep clear of trouble is upended by the arrival of Kevin’s young sister, a bruised femme fatale who insists that Miller make up for her brother’s death through one more heist.

Ryan Phillipe sheds the angst that he carried as a heartthrob in late ‘90s thrillers like “Cruel Intentions” and “I Know What You Did Last Summer” – the movies that, now twenty years later, he’s still most associated with. But now, he registers mostly as a blank. His performance as a criminal trying to reform his ways lacks depth and credibility, which is partially the fault of a screenplay that gives him and his fellow cast members bland material to work with. A saving grace of the film is Rhames, who in a rather thankless role, and even when singing a children’s lullaby, has real gravitas.

“The Locksmith” Trailer

Michael Clawson is a member of the Seattle Film Critic Society you can follow his passion for film on Letterboxd.

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