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Unlocked - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Seu-ma-teu-pon-eul tteor-eo-tteu-ryeoss-eul ppun-in-de

South Korea 2022


Kim Tae-joon

Chun Woo-hee
Im Si-wan
Kim Hee-won
Kim Ye-won
Park Ho-san
Oh Hyun-kyung

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Unlocked - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Lee Na-mi (Chun Woo-hee) goes out with friends one evening and parties so much that she is completely drunk and forgets her cell phone on the bus. The young man Jun-yeong (Im Si-wan) finds the phone and when Na-mi contacts him the next morning, he explains to her in a woman's voice that he has damaged the screen and took the cell phone to a repair service. The repair has already been paid for and she would only have to fill out the forms. Na-mi shows up at the shop, unaware of the fact that Jun-yeong himself is the repairman and that he replaced the screen and used the password Na-mi gave him to install spyware and clone her phone. From now on, he sees everything Na-mi does on her cell and is also able to access her camera. At first, he only gathers information about the woman, but soon he also meets her in person and just so happens to have the same hobbies as her...
At the same time, a body is found on a mountain. Detective Ji-man (Kim Hee-won) leads the investigation and finds clues that incriminate his son Jun-yeong. He broke off contact with him years ago, but he does not believe that he is capable of murder. He suspects that Jun-yeong just got involved with the wrong people and that they want to blame him for the murder. Ji-man therefore investigates in secret and tries to find his son, but Jun-yeong is always one step ahead of the detective.

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Review: As a thriller, "Unlocked" offers a lot of what you would wish for, when looking for nice evening entertainment. But choosing the smartphone as the pivotal element would not have been necessary, especially since it is not used for any social criticism here. Therefore, you might as well watch any other thriller about a killer stalking someone - for example, "Door Lock". At the beginning we get a nice montage of all the things we use our smartphone for these days (and in Korea there are even more purposes of use), but neither do we get an in-depth story dealing with the dangers involved should this key to so many aspects in our lives be taken away from us, nor does the smartphone get used again in any original way on a visual level. Even some modern romantic comedies manage to offer more in this respect.

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It's a pity that you get as many clichés here as you would get in any other mediocre thriller. And that starts with the characters. Chun Woo-hee ("The Anchor") plays a young woman who is portrayed as somewhere between clever and naïve. Just depending on what the script needs at a specific moment. Sometimes you even wonder why Na-mi is still alive. Apparently, the killer likes to take his time and wants to completely destroy the person's life first. That would actually have been an interesting approach if Na-mi's life falling apart had not been captured in such a compact way. The supporting characters - like her father, who at least serves a purpose in the story - are not written in a particularly captivating way either. And while Na-mi's friend might be quite likeable, she is not relevant to the story at all. And that's just the start of the list of characters that are poorly written.

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Because obviously, there is the killer too. Once again Im Si-wan takes on the role of the villain, just as he already did in "Emergency Declaration". Even though he is allowed to pretend to be a charismatic young man with the same interests as Na-mi in a few scenes, he is mainly the stereotypical killer who has no real motivation for his actions, except for enjoying it, nor does he set himself apart in any other way from villains of other run-of-the-mill thrillers. There would even have been room for some complexity as we also have the storyline of the detective who broke ties with his son and now has a guilty conscience because that son might have become a murderer. The background and the emotional baggage that both carry with them could have made the movie much more captivating. But apart from a twist, with which the flick didn't really do itself any favors, there is nothing exceptional here.

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In addition, "Unlocked" has some scenes that simply don't work. Moments that are written so idiotic that you just want to facepalm. This includes a rift between two friends, as well as detectives who simply let the killer go without checking his ID, even though they just shoved their guns in his face moments ago. At least, the finale is quite gripping and offers a few emotionally intense scenes - but only if you were actually able to warm up to the characters a little bit until then. It makes me wonder how the source material by Akira Teshigawara was, a novel which Japan already adapted into a movie called "Stolen Identity" in 2018. Everything that would have given "Unlocked" a personality, namely the socially critical aspect that our entire lives are crammed into small, rectangular devices making us vulnerable to numerous forms of abuse, is just missing in this thriller.

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Unfortunately, I cannot even recommend to watch the Japanese version instead, as that flick didn't get any good reviews either. As a psychological thriller, "Unlocked" simply fails to show the psyche of any of its characters. We get a textbook storyline which does not try anything new. Everything seems clean and tidy, and leading actress Chun Woo-hee mostly manages to guide us through the movie. But because the script has too many weaknesses, and the genre clichés used are just too hackneyed, I simply cannot really recommend this flick. Sure, fans of decent South Korean thrillers will not be able to avoid the movie, but the potential of the interesting premise is simply not tapped. And that's what makes the movie quite frustrating at times.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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