Rectifying the past and creating a better future collide in The Locksmith, the new action thriller from first-time director Nicolas Harvard. Ultimately, Harvard’s intention was to make a bona fide popcorn movie and with Ryan Phillippe at the helm, that’s come to pass in this noir-ish romp.
Phillippe plays Miller, an ex-con recently released from prison for a bungled robbery. Sure, he tries to walk a straight line and work his way back into the lives of his ex, Beth (Kate Bosworth), a police detective, and their young daughter, but things don’t go that smoothly. Toss in some mentor-ish help from an old friend (Ving Rhames of the Mission: Impossible films and Pulp Fiction), and Miller struggles to keep the past, well, right there in the past. When his daughter’s life hangs in the balance, it’s a major wake-up call.
“I love stories of redemption and Miller’s character arc,” Phillippe said. “Here’s a guy who wants to amend some wrongs in his past and reconnect with his daughter, and try to do some good in his life. That appealed to me a great deal. Then the fact that it’s very much a crime/heist thriller, but more so reliant on the relationships and on the human beings within that story. To me, it felt kind of like a ’70s film in a way; a throwback to a Steve McQueen-type of film.”
A Rare Collaborative Effort
There are a lot of moving pieces in The Locksmith. As Miller tries to keep things steady with his ex and daughter, there’s also April (Gabriela Quezada) to contend with—her brother, Kevin, was Miller’s partner in a botched job a decade ago, and April has fallen into a prostitution ring, led by Garrett Field (Charlie Weber). Seems April has a plan to restore the past and set her up in a new life. The twist? It requires Miller to fall back into his old ways for one more break-in.
For Harvard, the project was his first time directing a full-length feature. Juggling those moving pieces proved to be challenging at times. “It felt terrifying at first,” Harvard notes about directing. “Ultimately, I wound up feeling very much at home, especially with the incredible crew that our producers assembled. So, it changed from just that first-time insecurity to something else entirely. I’ve been in the film industry for a long time, I’ve seen this done before, so at some point it became, ‘Okay, I don’t even have time to think and worry about that. We just have to do it. This is what we’ve set out to do. And we’re going to chase it all the way till the end.’”
“Nick is so hands-on, so when he’s operating the camera, he’s right in there with us,” Phillippe added. “In terms of what he did as a filmmaker, I think some of that intensity comes through. Working opposite a great cast also helped make that intensity believable. That’s your whole aim as an actor—wanting to find the truth and make it seem real and make people relate to what your character is going through.
“Nick is also French, so a lot of his recommendations for this film were noir and French films, and I’ve watched those,” Phillippe quickly noted, “but we also talked about other film influences, like James Caan movies from back in the 1980s. Like Thief, which you could classify as a thriller or heist movie, but it was also about the people and the relationships and in those connections. It’s like that in The Locksmith, too.”
When The Stakes Are Higher
Today’s film, TV, and streaming universe has changed dramatically in the last few years. With so much more at stake to have creative projects land well, it’s fitting to ask how Phillippe and Harvard maneuver through such an ever-shifting landscape.
“I learned a long time ago that the outcome is so unpredictable, in regard to how much of an audience is going to see it,” Phillippe shared. “Especially now, with all the different places that content can end up. In our instance, we’re starting off in some theaters and then on demand, then eventually it’s going to end up on one of the streaming services, and it’ll get more eyeballs on it.”
The Big Sky and Cruel Intentions alum went on to say that he gages potential projects more these days on the possibility of having a great shared experience. “It really comes down to the experience for me, especially at this age—the experience I’m going to have and the people I’ll be working with, and whether I feel like as if that’s going to be a positive thing,” he said. “And then, the question of… do I enjoy the character in the story enough that it doesn’t matter to me whether, you know, it immediately catches on and goes viral in some sense or gets a massive audience. You have to temper your expectations somewhat. I think that’s a healthy thing to do in this industry.”
When asked what he hopes audiences take away from The Locksmith, Harvard says, “There’s a refreshing simplicity to the movie for me. When you think of some of the bigger budget things coming out of Hollywood, The Locksmith has a kind of nostalgia to it. It’s just an appealing story; the type we don’t really see as much anymore. I hope audiences get a 90-minute break from the nutty stuff going on in the world. This is absolutely a popcorn movie. It’s meant to be enjoyed. And I hope people join us for the ride.”
The Locksmith hits theaters and on demand on February 3 from Screen Media Films.