Monday, April 19, 2010

Film Review: WEDLOCK (1991, Lewis Teague)

Stars: 4.1 of 5.
Running Time: 101 minutes.
Tag-line: "Trapped in a prison of the future. Betrayed by a woman of his past. Frank Warren is wired to explode."
Notable Cast or Crew: Rutger Hauer, Mimi Rogers, James Remar, Joan Chen (TWIN PEAKS, THE LAST EMPEROR), Stephen Tobolowsky (GROUNDHOG DAY, DEADWOOD), O-Lan Jones (EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, MIRACLE MILE), Danny Trejo, Grand L. Bush (LETHAL WEAPON, FREEJACK). Written by Broderick Miller (who basically rewrote it as a subpar TV movie called DEADLOCKED: ESCAPE FROM ZONE 14 in 1995). Directed by the underrated Lewis Teague (CUJO, CAT'S EYE, ALLIGATOR). Costumes by Stephen M. Chudej (TAPEHEADS, RAISING ARIZONA, SHAKES THE CLOWN).
Best one-liner: "You non-conformists are all alike."

Oh we're talkin' WEDLOCK. I'm a sucker for movies with necklace bombs. I've an even bigger sucker for movies with necklace bombs where Rutger Hauer exclaims "Jesus Christ!"

and then James Remar pops out of the shadows with a smoking gun, smarmily retorting, "No– but I'm flattered by the comparison," as Joan Chen cackles with fiendish malevolence.

Let's go down the list: 80's lightning FX? Check. Danny Trejo in a bit part as a prisoner?

Check. Exploding heads? Brutal ball-squeezing? A dude with a funky earring (like Ozone's in BREAKIN' 2) urinating on Rutger while he's in a sensory deprivation tank?

What is this, a Castellari movie?

Check, check, and double-check.

The main thrust is that 'good guy' thief Rutger takes the fall because of a double-crossin' fiancée Joan Chen (Josie on TWIN PEAKS) and ex-jewel-theivin' buddy Remar.

Rutger ends up in a futuristic, multi-gender, no smoking prison run by ruthless warden Stephen Tobolowsky (the obnoxious Ned Ryerson from GROUNDHOG DAY- bing!) and can only escape by remaining within 100 yards of his necklace bomb 'wedlock' partner, Mimi Rogers– who, by the way, he CAN'T STAND!

"Oh, nooo- you're my wedlock partner?"

See you in the funny pages

Now if that doesn't sound like movie gold to you, I don't even want to hear it- just get the hell outta here right now.

For the rest of you- here eleven reasons why WEDLOCK is well worth the commitment:

#1. Rutger, Joan, and Remar in Russian priest disguises. Is this why Rutger inexplicably has the same costume in SURVIVING THE GAME in '94?

Did he manage to sneak it off the set and into his personal collection? Did he figure three years was long enough for the producers of WEDLOCK to forget that his costume mysteriously went missing at the end of the shoot, and that they wouldn't put two and two together? How often does he wear it at home as lounging attire? Did James Remar keep his, too?

Is it only a matter of time before it ends up on an episode of DEXTER? So many unanswered questions.

#2. O-Lan Jones cameo as the proprietor of a store called "Astral Dreams." Welcome to the future.

#3. Warden Tobolowsky tooling around at times in a smoking jacket and sipping on girl drinks.

#4. These sunglasses. It's not that they're particularly 'over-the-top' or remarkable– they're just right.

#5. Rutger's continued flourishes of swordplay. It's not the Middle Ages (LADYHAWKE, FLESH + BLOOD), it's not essential to the plot (BLIND FURY), but by gum, we can fit some in anyway.


#6. "So wait, when should we say this thing is set?" –"The future." "Naww, we gotta be more specific than that."

#7. The simple joy of enjoying tasty cold cuts after getting pissed on in the sensory deprivation tank is something I think we all can actually relate to.

#8. Rutger tooling around in THE most ridiculous southwestern rainbow fleece jacket/poncho, ever.

Which, naturally, leads to steamy, back-of-truck poncho sex:

I'm not sure what the concept was exactly, but I like it. Here's another picture of the macabre fleece:

Credit belongs to costume designer Stephen M. Chudej, who boldly chose to depict the future as not being populated by people in leather and burlap sacks (i.e., MAD MAX, SOLDIER, BLOOD OF HEROES, etc., etc.), but closer to the concepts of 'Medieval Turkish Dance Party," and "Rainbow-flavored Southwestern Mountain-Climbing Swishery." Highest marks.

#9. Try this theoretical question on for size: What if GROUNDHOG DAY starred James Remar instead of Bill Murray, and instead of being a quirky, pseudo-sci-fi holiday comedy, it was a straight-to-video, quirky sci-fi actioner?

#10. The "smash 'em if you got 'em" rule of intricate 80's cakes still applies, as always.

#11. The endless, increasingly insane situations the collars present to our heroes– from elevators to slomo cliff leaps to getting on the wrong bus, it's never less than a damn good time.

In closing- a little more than four stars. If it were made today, it'd be inundated by bad CGI, WB network has-beens, and maybe a washed up pro-wrestler or two– if we were lucky. It's a testament to the raucous genre filmmaking of Lewis Teague, the slick quintet of leads (Hauer, Rogers, Remar, Chen, Tobolowsky), and the colorful costume choices of Mr. Chudej that this thing is able to succeed at bein' a rip-snortin' wild ride. Pass the Schlitz.

-Sean Gill


Unknown said...

Wow, Hauer, Rogers, Remar, Chen, AND Tobolowsky! Sounds like high quality fromage to me! Very nice... Man, this sounds like a snazzy film - something that would be too good for even SyFy Channel (gahd, I hate their new name).

Sean Gill said...

Hah, yeah- completely. But I still refuse to acknowledge that the Sci-Fi Channel has ever altered its name.

Ned Merrill said...

Goddamn...I enjoyed this movie a bunch of times when it premiered on HBO back in '91 and was in regular rotation for the next couple years. Haven't seen it since, but I really enjoyed this trip down memory lane.

Rogers was never cuter than she was here--I can almost forgive her for bringing Scientology into Tom Cruise's life and making him more unbearable than he already was. Rutger is great, but the man is still best when he's the villain. Any Remar is a good thing and Tobolowsky as a prison warden of any time period is cinematic gold.

Wasn't this one also called DEADLOCK? I think that's the title I saw it under.

And, I forgot this was a Teague film! What's he been up to lately?

Sean Gill said...


Yup, it was also known as DEADLOCK (in fact, that's the title on the poster I've chosen), and it is indeed a damn fine flick. It's unfortunate that Teague has gone under the radar, he was on some kind of a hot streak in the 80's and early 90's (ALLIGATOR, CAT'S EYE, JEWEL OF THE NILE, NAVY SEALS, CUJO, and WEDLOCK, not to mention the completely redunkulous Jay Leno/Pat Morita buddy cop film COLLISION COURSE). A bit of a hiatus, it seems that Teague is back and working on some short films that he also wrote- his first self-written work! I'll have to keep an eye on YouTube to see if they turn up.
And I must make a mental note to self to check out T BONE N WEASEL, Teague's 1992 road buddy film starring Christopher Lloyd and Gregory Hines....WHAAAAAT?!

Stephen M Chudej said...

Hello, Sean!
This is Stephen M Chudej. I am humbled by your praise of the costume design behind the production of DEADLOCK...WEDLOCK..DEADLOCK...(we shot it under several names).
I have to be honest though, you probably put a whole lot more thought into writing this piece. I can explain. How do I write to you?
Stephen M Chudej