A science-fiction adventure that steals from Alfred Hitchcock's 39 Steps and Stanley Kramer's Defiant Ones. Director Lewis Teague may not be in the same league as those two directors, but he did a dandy job with this futuristic prison flick. Originality may not be its strong card, but Deadlock offers appealing performances by Mimi Rogers and Rutger Hauer. They play convicts linked by high-tech neckbands that explode if one prisoner ventures more than 100 yards from another prisoner with a matching collar. None of the inmates knows to whom they are paired, so all are forced to stick around. When Rogers and Hauer discover that their collars match, the duo embark on a gutsy prison break. Of course, they must to stay together as they head for the diamonds he hid before his arrest. This may not be art, but it is, ah, a great escape. --Rochelle O'Gorman
This is a potentially
interesting SF variation on the prison film. It has one good SF idea at the
centre of it - collars that detonate if the wearers move more than 100 yards
apart - and the film wisely settles down into a novel variation on The Defiant
Ones (1958). But alas there is almost nothing to the film outside its one of
idea. Despite announcing it has a future setting, the film’s actual sf content
begins and ends with the collars - it doesn’t even make the minimal effort to
disguise the present as a futuristic setting that most near future films do.
It has a competent commercial director, Lewis Teague, at the helm. Teague has made some fair genre films, Alligator (1980) and notably Cujo (1983). Teague generates some passable suspense - like when Hauer and Rogers end up being separated on busses or in an elevator. But he fails to keep one hanging on the edge of the seat the way one feels the film should. What the film really needs is a big-budget approach with widescreen action and a more concerted and involving attempt at suspense. As it is it feels like video filler than nobody involved seems to care about. Rutger Hauer, with unkempt long hair and a rather unconvincing set of glasses, seems disinterested in the exercise. Stephen Tobolowsky is miscast as the warden - this role traditionally requires someone who can project an iron brutality but Tobolowsky is balding, bespectacled and projects nothing at all. Mimi Rogers is better, seeming to offer the film a worthwhile variation on the cliché of the constantly bickering characters locked together who come to like one another, although Hauer fails to rise to the other side of the equation. The worst performance comes from the usually good Joan Chen who plays irritatingly over the top the whole way through.
The most amusing thing about the film is how it seems to have been written by someone with a real axe to grind about marriage. There is the obvious symbol of the wedlock collar. And beside that not only Hauer but also Roger’s characters are betrayed and sent to jail by treacherous fiancées. The film takes great delight in having them steal clothing from a Just Married couple and later turn up and disrupt a high society wedding. In one amusingly cynical line, Rogers’ makes a plea to a security guard: “I’m going to explode if we’re separated,” which gets the sarcastic response, “Yeah, marriage can do that to you.”
Screenwriter Miller also wrote a quasi-sequel (more of a remake) – Deadlocked: Escape from Zone 14, a dreary cable tv movie which aired in 1995.