My favourite thing about Unlocked – the new perplexingly well-cast espionage action-thriller from veteran director Michael Apted – is the title. Someone really must have thrown a dart at the wall to come up with that one, because as far as I can tell Unlocked isn’t about unlocking anything – except, that is, the prison cell where we should be keeping Orlando Bloom to ensure he never delivers a performance like this one again.
Still, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Unremarkable reunites us with Noomi Rapace, a specialist in playing emotionally-lacerated heroines, and here sees her as Alice Racine, a tearaway youth turned CIA interrogator who has been traumatized out of field work by a terrorist attack she failed to prevent. Luckily she’s going to get a second attempt: thanks to a dastardly imam, some trademark inter-agency double-crossing and our reliable chums at ISIS, London is on the brink of a biological attack that only Alice can stop. And thus, we have a movie.
It must be said that the role of badass, rule-bending, brooding super-spy does feel fresher in a woman’s hands, but it’s a victory for casting parity more than storytelling competency, because a character this stale starts to fester after only a few scenes. Luckily the early ones are the best that Uninteresting has to offer; one of them, a grounded lo-fi interrogation during which Alice learns that her higher-ups (including a sleepwalking Michael Douglas as her Agency minder and John Malkovich as a typically Malkovichian CIA station chief) might not be telling the whole truth, actually suggests a much better movie than we ultimately get.
That isn’t to say that Unnecessary is strictly terrible, though. In fact, I’m quite surprised at how enjoyable I found it, especially considering that Orlando Bloom turns up after a while as a tattooed East End cat burglar who seems to be auditioning for a high school re-enactment of Snatch. Whatever he’s doing here – and, frankly, the more I think about it, the less sense it makes – serves mostly to remind you of what’s actually working – namely the all-business lead performance from Rapace, an enjoyable turn from Toni Collette as an MI5 spook with a machine gun and a platinum hairdo, and Tosin Cole as an extremely likeable young chap who Alice has taken under her wing as part of her cover as a social worker.
There’s only so much you can reasonably expect from a movie like this, and Unbreakable mostly delivers it. The hemmed-in location work and reserved action sequences are obviously indicative of budgetary limitations, with a lot of the action taking place in wholly unspectacular offices and stairwells, but Rapace proves herself a capable kinetic performer. The film has vigour and attacks its rote material with enthusiasm, and while its heroine is deserving of a flashier vehicle, this one still runs. It’s the second-hand Volvo of medium-budget actioners.
Towards the end, Unintentional rather optimistically opens itself up for a sequel, one which would presumably further chronicle the adventures of Alice Racine. Will this film produce enough commercial interest to get that kind of project greenlit?
I’m guessing that’s Unlikely.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.