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Deadlock (2021) Review

Deadlock was directed by Jared Cohn (Shark Season, Halloween Pussy Trap Kill! Kill!), written by Cohn and Cam Cannon (Red Squad, Zero Contact) and stars Patrick Muldoon, (American Satan, The Comeback Trail), Bruce Willis (Breach, Midnight in the Switchgrass), Ava Paloma (The Scrapper), Matthew Marsden (Dead South, Bounty Killer), Douglas S. Matthews (The Broom Wedding), Kelly Lynn Reiter (Big Freaking Rat, Xenophobia), Kelcey Rose (The Student), Michael DeVorzon (Fast and Fierce: Death Race, Alien Conquest), Chris Cleveland (Living Dark: The Story of Ted the Caver), Jamal Trulove, and Johnny Messner. It’s about an ex-Army Ranger who’s forced to take action after a gang of mercenaries takes over the dam/hydroelectric plant he works at.

The Plot: As is the case for many of these Die Hard scenario movies, Deadlock never comes close to the quality of that movie’s (most of the franchise, rather) story and uses only the basic premise and structure along with a slightly-above-average villain for its own rendition of the setup.

Mack (Muldoon) is a welder going through the motions at a hydroelectric plant, recovering from a hangover that isn’t shown to the audience but reiterated throughout the runtime. Like any job, he deals with the staff, including his ex-wife(?) Sophia (Paloma), romantic rival/boss Smith (DeVorzon), guard Tommy (Matthews), and chief of security/obvious double-crosser Boon (Marsden).

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While Mack begins his day, Ron (Willis) uses his inside man Cranbrook (Messner) to take almost everyone hostage to get leverage over detectives Fulbright (Cleveland) and Rakestraw (Trulove) for the death of his son. Oddly, it takes Ron and his men a while to bother gathering their relatives, Amy Rakestraw (Reiter) and Paula Fulbright (Rose) respectively, to get their plan in motion, instead of holding them for a large chunk of the runtime.

Deadlock is at least quick to get to the point, getting through the setup in 20 minutes and leaving the other 70ish for action, but it’s the scenes with Ron and the cops that actually entertain as they try to spin events in the raid that killed one of Ron’s sons and imprisoned the other. It’s hinted at in the very beginning, so it doesn’t feel forced for current events’ sake, but all of this comes after 30 bland and clich├ęd minutes of Mack and Tommy being the monkeys in the wrench for Ron and a forgotten security element.

The Characters: While the plot is eager to get going, the majority of these characters are nonstarters, only barely humanized via exposition dumps onto the audience. Cohn does make sure to get Mack’s medals from the army in frame, as well as his messy house, but aside from that, there are only blank spots and nebulous relationships with people like Sophia where there are minor bits of dialogue indicating Mack’s vying to leave. Leave Sophia or something else? Who knows. Tommy is a semi-sidekick and meant to be comedic relief, but none of that lands the way it’s supposed to, with Tommy’s humour flat and actions nearly meaningless.

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Ron is way more interesting than the protagonists, having lost his sons and disrespected by the men who did it, while also somehow having the means to hire at least two dozen goons to take over the plant; resulting in his threats to flood the county. It’s hard to completely hate him for his actions and the movie works with that element, allowing him to show empathy to Fulbright’s wife who lost her sister and only working to hurt those that hurt him in the first place. An attempt is made on behalf of Boon too, but that doesn’t land given his lack of backstory or even importance. At least Cohn supplied a solid villain, but way more time is spent with a flat hero and his mediocre antics.

The Action: Deadlock does have a location at its disposal and does tie said location into the plot, but the action that drives the story doesn’t do anything interesting within the plant’s walls, refraining from impact beyond digital bullets impacting the pipes and machinery. The layout of the plant isn’t given any thought either, with Mack’s actions always feeling distant from Ron and the plot as a whole.

When Mack begins his mission, the action scenes aren’t much better, almost unanimously being shot from a handheld camera perspective meant to up the impact, which doesn’t gel with the mostly static, serial engagements he finds himself in.

Also, like a lot of these Die Hard clones, the protagonist isn’t clever, not once thinking twice about potentially alerting more guards or otherwise biting off more at once than he can chew. And as a cherry on top, he never takes a hit, making Deadlock feel like an accidental Seagal movie at times (that’s the worst insult an action movie could ever receive, and I feel sorry for saying it) where the hero is bland and invincible. Credit must at least be given to Muldoon and the stunt team here for the few tricks they accomplish, with Muldoon on a wire over a running dam and the stuntmen more than willing to fall from high heights. It’s a shame they didn’t get to go bigger.

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The Technics: Cohn’s handling of the movie is largely passable, with the director clearly striving to give most viewers what they came for in the form of action scenes and villainous moments, however, Cohn and Cannon’s writing is a major slip on a technical level, delivering dumps of exposition and never showing the night where that exposition comes from. Some throwaway lines cause confusion too.

Perhaps the biggest thorn in the movie’s side is its usage of stock footage of flooding. Once one of those floodgates open and the movie cuts to what’s clearly years-old footage of destruction, all suspension of disbelief pertaining to Ron’s plan of washing the city away is, itself, washed away in the blink of an eye despite the rest of the movie looking much better as far as basic lighting and sound, (but not the stock gunfire sounds), until that point.

The novelty of Willis taking on the Rickman role from his most iconic movie isn’t lost on me, but it’s lost on Deadlock, which, while mostly competent on a technical level, doesn’t create a foil to its decent baddie and can’t deliver the action or scale required to send the movie all the way.


Deadlock is available On Demand and Digital Platforms via Saban Films. There’s been no date announced for Blu-ray and DVD availability. You can check their Facebook page for more information.

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