‘Unlocked’ Is a Good Old-Fashioned Thriller

One of the reasons I love being an entertainment journalist is my ability to see under-the-radar films that the casual moviegoer might never hear about. Now, more than ever, there are so many under-the-radar films to see. Part of the reason is that there are so many more platforms for film. With Video on Demand and streaming services, audiences no longer need to head to the multiplex, and it is on these platforms that under-the-radar movies thrive.

The other reason for the recent proliferation of under-the-radar films is the relatively new reliance on big blockbusters to bolster a movie studio’s bottom line. Not too long ago, mid-budget films were the studios’ bread and butter with the occasional blockbuster just icing on the cake. The major studios’ bottom lines are now almost entirely predicated on big budget blockbuster success. Movies that, 20 years ago, would have been a mid-budget film are now relegated almost strictly to the indie scene.

The reason for this lurks in the numbers. A big budget blockbuster wannabe is high risk but, also, high reward. Many sequels underperformed at the box office this summer, but they still finished solidly in the black due to international box office receipts including the recent “Transformers” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” installments. On the flip side, a very low budget film is a very low risk with the potential of a very high reward. Earlier this year, on a $4.5 million budget, “Get Out” made well over $200 million.

Being a medium risk, but only medium reward kind of deal, mid-budget movies are no longer produced at the rate they were historically. A film that at one time would have been a mid-budget movie is now a low-budget or even micro-budget film. The latest is the new spy thriller, “Unlocked.” The fact that “Unlocked” is directed by veteran Michael Apted makes it even more surprising that the film isn’t even getting a so-called limited release. Apted has directed everything from critical faves like “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and “Gorillas in the Mist” to audience faves like “The World is Not Enough” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.”

Along with Apted’s pedigree, the film features an all-star cast of three Oscar winners/nominees in Toni Collette, Michael Douglas and John Malkovich, along with recent “it” boy and girl, Orlando Bloom and Noomi Rapace (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “Prometheus”). In “Unlocked,” Rapace plays CIA agent Alice Racine. After failing to apprehend the terrorist behind a Paris attack that claimed dozens of lives, Racine is forced to live in London as a caseworker.

Unexpectedly, she is called back into action by her mentor, Eric Lasch (Douglas), when the CIA discovers intel of another imminent attack. While “unlocking” the suspect, Alice discovers that the classified information she has uncovered has been compromised. Running for her life, Alice turns to ex-soldier Jack (Bloom) to prevent a lethal biological attack on the citizens of London.

While “Unlocked” might not have the Oscar cache of “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and might not have the critical support like “Gorky Park,” another Michael Apted political thriller, it’s a movie that deserves to be seen. Even though the film is only opening in a handful of theaters, this is one of those films that has the potential to become a smash hit on VOD. If you like a good old-fashioned thriller, there are many worse ways to spend an hour and a half.

Unlocked” opens in select theaters and VOD Sept. 1.