Review: LOCKER 13
Film anthologies are such hit or miss entities these days (actually, when haven’t they been?), some working very well and some, well..not so much. Like an entertaining homage to Rod Serling’s various anthology TV shows, LOCKER 13 (directed by Bruce Dellis, Jason Marsden, Matthew Mebane, Adam Monteirth and Donovan Monteirth) gives fans of the anthology sub-genre an entertaining time, one that doesn’t take overstay its welcome, giving a decently paced and well executed ride.
More akin to THE TWILIGHT ZONE than TALES FROM THE CRYPT, LOCKER 13 revolves around Skip, a young janitor at a wild west-like theme park. Curious about the theme park and the stories that inhabit it, Skip sits down as his supervisor, Archie, guides Skip through various stories about the different choices that people are given in life and how each person’s decision can affect their lives, for the good, or in some cases, for the deadly worst. The first story tells the tale of Tommy Novak (Rick Shroder), a washed up boxer who in his promoter’s words, is nothing more than just “a punching bag” at this point, and how when approached by an old man promising the has-been boxer a different future, if he only sells his soul by putting on an old looking pair of boxing gloves. Almost instantly, Novak begins to win every match he has, quickly ascending through the ranks and making a big name for himself, but just as things begin to start looking up, Novak begins to be SO good and pummeling each of his opponents, that the gloves begin to take him over, making him not only win, but also making him beat the hell out of his opponents so badly, that he kills them. Faced with the guilt of killing every opponent, Novak gives up the gloves, and like most thriller anthology tales, the gloves have other plans, ending up in someone else’s hands and with Novak in their sights.
The other tales that follow revolve around a man wanting to join a secret society that ends up being a lot more dangerous than he had known, a hitman trying to kill a group of women, and a man whose suicide ends up being thwarted by a mysterious man all are entertaining in their own way, but in LOCKER 13, it’s the opening boxer tale and the wrap around story that really stands out. While the boxer segment is somewhat short, the performances by former child star Rick Shroder as Novak and love to hate him character actor Jon Polito (THE CROW, HIGHLANDER) really keep you entertained and on board throughout the whole segment. Like most anthologies, each director has their own approach and style, and it’s frequent P.T. Anderson second unit cameraman Matthew Mebane’s style that really makes “Down and Out” such a cool little tale.
Though the film is full of some pretty decent performances and stories, it’s the wrap around story featuring one of the most underrated character actors around, Jon Gries (THE MONSTER SQUAD, NAPOLEAN DYNAMITE, the upcoming Riley Stearns film FAULTS), as Archie, the supervisor guiding the young ex-con Skip through the stories, that really stands out continuously. Gries steals every scene that he’s in, giving a performance that could typically have ended up being one-dimensional, but like most of his work, Gries really gives a realistic performance, something that is lacking from a lot of anthology films. With the small scenes before, in between, and after each segment, the story of Archie showing Skip that peoples’ choices can make them who they are and lead to something good or something bad, that really keeps the viewer entertained. When the film’s various tales have ended, the final tale, involving Skip seeing a parallel version of himself in Locker 13, is the one that really takes the cake and reminds you of one of the better episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, spinning the yarn involving Skip’s other self trying to pull a fast one on him, and showing Skip that he can either be the person he was or the person that he wants to be. It’s a very interesting take, a well written and fun tale to watch.
Though not perfect, LOCKER 13 is a fresh, entertaining and sometimes great anthology. For every lacking segment, there’s a good one to follow it with, making the film a good one to watch with some friends and a few slices of pizza.