“The Locksmith” has the right elements for a crime thriller: an ex-con seeking revenge and being chased by a vengeful cop while trying to protect his family. Ryan Phillippe plays the title character, Miller, introduced in the middle of a robbery. Things go wrong and his cohort gets killed. Flash forward 10 years, and he’s out of prison. In the present, he reconnects with his daughter (Madeleine Guilbot) who’s in the care of her policewoman mother (Kate Bosworth). Of course he will be pulled back for one last job where things will go wrong.
Nicolas Harvard’s directorial debut is a strictly-by-the numbers crime thriller, where every plotline is gleaned from a mile away. In its straightforward story, “The Locksmith” has Miller dealing with a corrupt cop (Jeffrey Nordling), as he tries to help the sister of his slain old friend (Gabriela Quezada). Ving Rhames appears as another friend, a kind and supportive one who offers him a job. All of these characters get entangled in the crime web of a shady real estate developer (Charlie Weber), who dabbles in illegal gambling and exploits the sex workers in his employ. The police get involved and Miller’s ex wife is assigned the case. Though the script is credited to John Glosser, Joe Russo, Ben Kabialis and Chris LaMont with a story by Blair Kroeber, all those writers couldn’t fix the stock characters and lazy plotlines.
To provide the thrills in this thriller, Harvard provides a couple of robberies plus a few gun shootouts. All are choreographed without imagination and unfold as expected. Of course someone close to the hero has to die, and that choice is no surprise. The stakes could not be any lower. Faced with these bland characters and rote situations, the actors are only half committed. Their lines are said without conviction and they perform the action sequences with as much effort as the writers put into the story — the bare minimum, enough to coast through without utter embarrassment.
Phillippe looks like a leading man but doesn’t give this character any complexity or pathos. He simply delivers his lines without passion and moves on. Rhames tries to give his character some gravitas but to no avail. His part is too small to leave an impression. Nordling, who played this kind of smarmy character to much greater success on HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” snarls his lines without indicating how this cop has the respect of his underlings who follow him without question.
The one standout here comes in the characterization of Miller’s ex wife, Beth. As played by Bosworth, she’s a policewoman investigating the case. She’s not just the wife or girlfriend, standing on the sidelines worried for the male lead character, nor a stereotypical damsel in distress, but an active participant in the film’s main plotline. Unfortunately, that plotline isn’t all that interesting, and Beth gets the same shallow details and stilted dialogue as all the other characters.
“The Locksmith” is the type of movie that plays well at home. It’s ideal for streaming. It doesn’t demand too much attention. Patrons could pay it half a mind and every few minutes a loud bang, a gunshot or an actor yelling would draw attention. The plot is so straightforward and reminiscent of a thousand other crime movies that nothing will be missed. Alas, nothing is gained either, and the entertainment value is subpar at best.