Saturday, 18 April 2009

No. 103 : Wedlock

‘Wedlock’ is an 1991 American TV movie that was originally titled ‘Deadlock’ but renamed for it’s DVD release. ‘Deadlock’ is a far more appropriate and better title but crucially the name change granted it eligibility for this list. The film seems to have been a moderate success having won a prime time Emmy but that says more about the quality of TV movies in general rather than the value of this forgettable effort.

The film stars Rutger Hauer and began his wilderness years period following his early promise in films like ‘The Hitcher’ and ‘Blade Runner’. Recently he’s reinvented himself playing bit part low lifes in stuff like ‘Sin City’ and ‘Batman Begins’ and I think it’s a good use of his talents given that he’s always fine in small doses but a bit tiring when he’s the main attraction.

‘Wedlock’ is set, according to the caption, ‘Sometime in the future’ but happily for the budget everything in the future looks like contemporary California. Rutger plays Frank an ‘electronics expert’ who falls in with a bad crowd and is convinced to rob a diamond expo dressed as a priest, as you do. The robbery goes bad when his confederates turn out to be loose cannons and Rutger only just manages to get away with $25 million of stones. Predictably his henchmen turn out to be double crossers and shoot Rutger only to find that he’s stashed the booty elsewhere.

Despite being shot three times by future bullets Rutger survives and the film flashes forward to his arrival at a new prison called ‘The Holliday Camp’ run by, you’ve guessed it, Warden Holliday. As the cliché demands the warden is corrupt and stops at nothing to find out the location of the diamonds, resorting even to sticking Rutger is a box and having someone pee on him.

The prison itself has no bars, with the inmates kept in check by way of a nifty neck device which explodes if the wearer tries to tamper with it or, bizarrely, get more than 100 yards from his ‘wedlock partner’. The idea that every prisoner has an unknown mate and if either tries to leave the complex both blow up. The intention here is that they will act as their own warders and not let any one leave lest they too blow up. This is a ridiculous conceit and why they wouldn’t just have a perimeter without the partner thing is never satisfactorily explained.

Still it’s the angle the whole movie hangs on and Rutger soon learns his wedlock partner is the lovely Tracy (Mimi Rogers who looks like Pat Benetar from an 80‘s music video) who found out this secret info by blowing a guard or something. The two quickly escape, with both the Warden and Rutger's former accomplices in hot pursuit. Can Rutger, the electronics expert, remove the frankly rather basic collar in time and who will get the money? Can Tracy be trusted or is she another with an agenda which may or may not involve falling for our hero. If you want to know you’ll have to watch; or just ask, I don’t care.

It’s actually not too bad a film if you look beyond the terrible premise, risible acting, clichéd characters and barrel scraping budget. It moves along at a brisk pace and there are enough exploding heads and plenty of crappy dialogue to keep you interested. The cast includes the always terrible Joan Chen, the never trustworthy James Remar and the frankly awful Ned Reyerson out of ‘Groundhog Day’, who must be the least threatening evil prison warder ever.

The low octane shootout at the end is possibly the best bit with the least convincing helicopter explosion you’re ever likely to see. No doubt the budget had been exhausted by this point, but you do have to do more than superimpose some flames and dub in a ‘BOOM’!

You will see many worse films that ‘Wedlock’ which at least offers many opportunities to have a good old laugh at its many shortcomings. Not exactly high praise but praise after a fashion, which is something.

Best Bit : Rutger steals the wrong bag for getaway clothes
'W' Score : 13/23

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