REVIEW: “The Locksmith” (2023)

Ryan Phillippe has a brand new film called “The Locksmith” although there’s a good chance you didn’t know about it. That’s because the modest crime thriller came with barely a whisper of promotion. It’s actually a fairly entertaining time-burner that has no trouble holding your attention. At the same time, it turns out to be too straightforward for its own good. There are no unexpected twists and no real surprises of any kind.

Call it noir-lite, “The Locksmith” marks the directorial debut for Nicolas Harvard. A total of four writers penned the script, John Glosser, Joe Russo, Ben Kabialis, and Chris LaMont, from a story conceived by Blair Kroeber. In addition to Phillippe, the film features supporting turns from an intriguing cast that includes Ving Rhames, Kate Bosworth, and Jeffrey Nordling.

In a brief prologue we meet Phillippe’s Miller Graham, a master safecracker struggling to provide for his wife Beth (Bosworth) and their young daughter. He convinces his equally struggling best friend Kevin (George Akram) to help him on a job that’s orchestrated by Detective Zwick (Nordling), a corrupt vice cop who’s pretty high up on the department’s food chain. But things quickly go south. Zwick guns down Kevin to cover his tracks, and Miller is left to take the fall.

Miller keeps his mouth shut and serves ten years in prison. After being released, he’s given a handyman job by his loyal and wise friend, Frank (Rhames). But his main focus is on mending his relationship with his now ex-wife Beth and being a father to his now 12-year-old daughter Lindsay (Madeleine Guilbot). But things get complicated when he’s approached by April (Gabriela Quezada), Kevin’s kid sister. She’s gotten in too deep with a wealthy and powerful real estate developer, Garrett Field (Charlie Weber) who secretly runs an extensive prostitution and sex-trafficking ring. She wants out and she needs Miller’s help.

Image Courtesy of Screen Media

While Frank warns him not to get involved, a guilt-ridden Miller feels its his responsibility to help his late friend’s sister. So despite being hassled by Zwick and his two goons (for reasons I’m still not sure of), Miller and April hatch a plan to steel a bag of money from Garrett. It goes about as well as expected, putting Miller, his friends, and his family in danger.

Nothing that happens from there will catch anyone by surprise. Yet it’s clear that Harvard and the team of writers genuinely care for their characters. Both them and their relationships (as conventional as they may be) are given the time and attention they need. There’s an earnestness between Miller’s efforts to win back Beth’s trust and her willingness to give him a chance. There’s a sweetness to his relationship with Lindsay. There’s a sincerity in his friendship with the mentor-like Frank.

As for the villains, they’re all pretty one-dimensional. Garrett as a typical rich baddy who’s more of a plot device than an interesting or memorable character. Zwick is a different story. In many ways he’s your prototypical corrupt cop without a single redeemable characteristic or shade of nuance. But Nordling is so deliciously vile and despicable that he makes the character fun and steadily entertaining.

But “The Locksmith” tries to incorporate a little too much into its straight-line crime story – safe-cracking, assault, robbery, murder, prostitution, kidnapping, sex-trafficking, police corruption, plus some. There are also some pretty noticeable lapses in logic. Take April’s belief that it’ll take $500,000 (!!!) just to “start a new life“. Or Miller’s incredibly bad plan to steal the cash. Or Zwick’s irrational obsession and harassment of Miller.

As for Phillippe, it seems he has found a home in these B-movie thrillers. But to his credit there’s never a sense he’s slumming it or just cashing a check. He’s a sturdy lead who finds ways to make each of his characters interesting. It’s the same with “The Locksmith”. Phillippe earns our empathy and keeps us engaged, regardless of how dense Miller can seem and how head-scratching his choices can be. “The Locksmith” is now showing in select theaters and on VOD.


10 thoughts on “REVIEW: “The Locksmith” (2023)

  1. Thanks for the thoughtful review, I’ll add it to the watchlist and wait until there’s nothing else available that interest me. And you’re right about the need for $500,000 to turn someone’s life around. If I got $5 I’d consider it a great start.

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