×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Unlocked’

Years on from 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,' Noomi Rapace is still ready for action, though this middling thriller lags behind her.

Director:
Michael Apted
With:
Noomi Rapace, Orlando Bloom, Michael Douglas, John Malkovich, Toni Collette, Tosin Cole, Akshay Kumar, Michael Epp.
Release Date:
May 5, 2017

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1734493/

As the Hollywood casting search for a new, rebooted Lisbeth Salander starts up again, spare a thought for poor Noomi Rapace. Having stepped aside for Rooney Mara in David Fincher’s 2011 film, the original girl with the dragon tattoo is still proving her mettle for the part in far lesser vehicles like “Unlocked” — an anonymously enjoyable espionage thriller that, for purposes of memory, all but self-destructs the second the closing credits begin to roll. Starring Rapace as a steely CIA operative on a trust-no-one mission to save London from biological terrorism, Michael Apted’s efficient but unstylish film has only a prestigious cast of supporting slummers — Michael Douglas, Toni Collette, John Malkovich — to distinguish it from a “Spooks”-style TV outing. None of them, it should be said, brings as much to the table as Rapace, who gives this in-flight special the stern commitment of a star hungry for better things.

Modern-day action cinema is still running a brisk trade in Jason Bourne knockoffs, and while “Unlocked” claims no points for narrative or stylistic ingenuity, it is still a rarer pleasure than it should be to see a woman charged with the butt-kicking. Not that her gender feels anything more than incidental. Yet another brooding, closed-off agent who doesn’t play by the rules, Alice Racine (Rapace) is a pretty generic action hero; that only the most minor of script tweaks separate her from being played by, say, Colin Farrell marks a win for casting parity, if not for screenwriting nuance. It’s left to Rapace to insert stoically wounded expressiveness between the lines of Alice’s strictly functional dialogue — along with vague blanket allusions to her “rocky background.”

What we do learn is that Alice has been taken out of the field since failing to prevent a terrorist massacre in Paris some years previously. (The attack is fictitious, which strikes a faintly exploitative note in light of recent real-life events in the French capital.) Now quietly serving as an undercover intelligence agent in London, in the guise of a social worker, she’s drawn reluctantly back into action when word spreads of an ISIS cell plotting a large-scale nerve agent attack on the city. In the film’s most anxiously realized tension sequence, however, she surmises that the CIA higher-ups who have put her on the case aren’t quite who they claim to be. Cue an increasingly daft narrative spaghetti junction of reversals and double-crosses, casting doubt on the trustworthiness of all Alice’s supposed allies, from her fatherly American minder (Douglas) to her short-tempered Langley bureau chief (Malkovich) to her flinty MI5 contact (Collette, given the least to do of the headliners, but rocking a machine gun and platinum pixie crop with equally lethal aplomb).

At least we know right away that Orlando Bloom, wildly miscast as a cat burglar turned aide to a desperate Alice, should be regarded with caution: The actor’s wobbly, double-cheese Cockney accent doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Saddled with the most loudly echoing clunkers in Paul O’Brien’s script — “Most people didn’t lose their mates in the 7/7 Tube bombing,” he explains by way of groansome motivation — Bloom’s broad, inadvertently amusing performance lends “Unlocked” a glimpse of the truly inept film it could have been. Rapace’s brisk, businesslike demeanor, by comparison, looks like the right way to go; she and an autopilot Apted (a long way from his 1999 James Bond outing “The World Is Not Enough”) just about keep matters on her level. (Further down the cast list, there’s a glimmer of future-star promise in Tosin Cole, snappy and spirited as one of Alice’s social-care wards with CIA potential.)

Technical contributions are generally proficient, though budgetary limitations are evident in the somewhat hemmed-in location work and curtailed action setpieces: Rapace may once again prove herself a kinetic physical performer, but an awful lot of the film’s most rousing combat takes place in wholly unspectacular business suites. In its closing beats, “Unlocked” — the title of which, by the way, is so randomly assigned that it could as aptly and easily be “Unidentified” or “Unremarkable” — rather optimistically opens itself up for a sequel. It’s hard to see the film generating enough commercial interest to greenlight further Alice Racine adventures, though its leading lady is clearly up for a sturdier franchise.

Film Review: 'Unlocked'

Reviewed at Covent Garden Hotel screening room, March 15, 2017. Running time: 98 MIN.

Production: (U.K.) A Lionsgate release of a Silver Reel presentation, in association with Di Bonaventura Pictures, Bloom, SRA Prods., Lipsync Prods. Producers: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Georgina Townsley, Claudia Bluemhuber, Erik Howsam. Executive producers: Andrew Boswell, Irene Gall, Peter Hampden, Norman Merry, Kevan Van Thompson. Co-producer: Cort Kristensen.

Crew: Director: Michael Apted. Screenplay: Peter O'Brien. Camera (color, widescreen): George Richmond. Editor: Andrew MacRitchie. Music: Stephen Barton.

With: Noomi Rapace, Orlando Bloom, Michael Douglas, John Malkovich, Toni Collette, Tosin Cole, Akshay Kumar, Michael Epp.

More Film

  • Nadine Labaki

    Cannes: Nadine Labaki to Head Un Certain Regard Jury

    Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki has been named president of the jury for Un Certain Regard in Cannes. The Festival said Labaki had been chosen after “moving hearts and minds at the last Festival de Cannes with her Academy Award- and Golden Globe-nominated ‘Capernaum,’ which won the Jury Prize.” More Reviews Concert Review: Yoko Ono Earns [...]

  • Osmosis

    Netflix Unveils Four More French Originals, 'Gims,' 'Anelka,' 'Move,' 'Of Earth And Blood'

    As it prepares to open a fully-staffed office in France and ramp up its investment in local originals, Netflix has unveiled three new documentaries, “Move” (working title), “Gims” (working title), and “Anelka” (working title), and the feature film “Of Earth And Blood” while at Series Mania in Lille. Announced during a panel with Netflix’s commissioning [...]

  • Miramax Developing 'I Won't Be Home

    Film News Roundup: Miramax Developing 'I Won't Be Home for Christmas'

    In today’s film news roundup, “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas” is in the works, the NFL has made a documentary about female team owners and D Street Pictures has signed Kenny Gage and Devon Downs to direct the dance feature “Move.” HOLIDAY PROJECT More Reviews Concert Review: Yoko Ono Earns a Wide-Ranging, All-Female Salute [...]

  • Michael B. Jordan arrives at the

    Michael B. Jordan to Star in Warner Bros.' 'Methuselah' Movie

    Michael B. Jordan will produce and star in a “Methuselah” movie for Warner Bros., based on the Biblical story of a man who lived to be 969 years old. Jordan will produce through his Outlier Society production company along with Heyday’s David Heyman and Jeffrey Clifford. More Reviews Concert Review: Yoko Ono Earns a Wide-Ranging, [...]

  • Davids Chief Piera Detassis on Revamping

    Davids Chief Piera Detassis on Revamping Italy's Top Film Awards

    Piera Detassis recently became the first woman to head the David di Donatello Awards, Italy’s equivalent of the Oscars. Since then she’s been busy overhauling the inner workings of the prizes that will be awarded on Wednesday. Detassis, also the editor of Italian film publication Ciak, spoke exclusively to Variety about the challenges she’s faced [...]

  • Matteo Garrone's 'Dogman' Leads Davids Awards

    Matteo Garrone's 'Dogman' Leads Davids Awards Race

    With 15 nominations Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman” leads the pack of contenders for Italy’s David di Donatello Awards in a watershed year for the country’s top film nods that sees highbrow auteur titles reaping most of the David love just as local box-office grosses hit an all-time low. Garrone’s gritty revenge drama is followed closely with [...]

  • steven spielberg Apple TV Plus

    Steven Spielberg's Apple Appearance Riles Up Social Media: 'Big Old Mixed Message'

    Many Hollywood heavyweights flocked to Apple’s Cupertino, Calif. headquarters to help reveal the tech giant’s revamped steaming service Apple TV+ on Monday — but one such legend was so polarizing he became a national trending topic on Twitter for simply showing his face. Steven Spielberg was the first to appear in a dramatic short film [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content