Wedlock (1991)


aka Deadlock

USA. 1991.


Director – Lewis Teague, Screenplay – Broderick Miller, Producer – Branko Lustig, Photography – Dietrich Lohmann, Music – Richard Gibbs, Special Effects – Image Engineering (Supervisor – Peter Chesney), Production Design – Veronica Hadfield. Production Company – Spectator Films/Frederick S. Pierce Co


Rutger Hauer (Frank Warren), Mimi Rogers (Tracy Riggs), Joan Chen (Noelle), Stephen Tobolowsky (Warden George Holliday), James Remar (Sam), Basil Wallace (Emerald), Glenn Plummer (Teal)


It is the future. Frank Warren takes part in a five million dollar diamond heist but is betrayed and abandoned by his fiancee and partner Noelle. He is sentenced to twelve years at the Camp Holliday prison. Camp Holliday is run open plan but prisoners are given electronic collars called ‘wedlocks’ that are secretly twinned to another prisoner’s collar – if the two prisoners move than 100 yards apart or attempt to remove them, both collars will explode. Frank finds that his collar is wedlocked to fellow prisoner Tracy Riggs. The two make an escape, although their inability to move far apart makes the escape even more perilous. At the same time, they are pursued by Noelle, as well as the greedy warden, who want to know the location of the diamonds.

Wedlock/Deadlock is a potentially interesting science-fiction variation on the prison film. It has one good science-fiction idea at the centre of it – where prisoners are given explosive collars that will detonate if the wearers move more than a hundred yards apart – and the film wisely settles down into a novel variation on The Defiant Ones (1958).

The downside is that there is almost nothing to Wedlock outside of its one science-fiction idea. Despite announcing that it has a future setting, the film’s actual science-fiction content begins and ends with the collars – it fails to even make the minimal effort to disguise the present as a futuristic setting that most near future films do.

Wedlock has a competent commercial director, Lewis Teague, at the helm. Lewis Teague has made some fair genre films, Alligator (1980) and notably Cujo (1983). Teague generates passable suspense – like when Rutger Hauer and Mimi Rogers end up being separated on buses or in an elevator. However, he fails to keep one hanging on the edge of the seat the way one feels the film should. What Wedlock needed was 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 seemed to care about.

Rutger Hauer, with unkempt long hair and an unconvincing set of glasses, seems disinterested in the exercise. Stephen Tobolowsky is miscast as the warden – this is a role that traditionally requires someone who can project an iron brutality but Tobolowsky is balding, bespectacled and projects nothing at all. Mimi Rogers is better, offering the film a worthwhile variation on the cliche of the constantly bickering characters locked together who come to eventually like one another – although Rutger 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. Besides that, not only the Rutger Hauer character but also Mimi Rogers are betrayed and sent to jail by treacherous fiancees. The film takes great delight in having the two of them steal clothing from a Just Married couple and later turn up and disrupt a high society wedding. In one amusingly cynical line, Mimi 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 Broderick Miller also wrote a quasi-sequel (more of a remake) with the dreary cable tv movie Deadlocked: Escape from Zone 14 (1995).

Director Lewis Teague first appeared with The Lady in Red (1979) and went onto the modest monster movie Alligator (1980), the Stephen King adaptations Cujo (1983) and Cat’s Eye (1985), as well as the non-genre likes of The Jewel of the Nile (1985) and Navy Seals (1990). Into the 1990s, Teague’s output has mostly been in television with occasional genre forays like the tv movie The Triangle (2001).

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