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Lock Up Movie Review: Smart premise handcuffed in mediocrity- Cinema express

Lock Up Movie Review: Smart premise handcuffed in mediocrity

The ideas are smart but the writing is not, making the multiple twists of Lock Up ineffective

Published: 14th August 2020

Inspector Sampath has been murdered and sub-inspector Moorthy (Venkat Prabhu) catches the alleged murderer on the spot. The prim and proper Ilavarasi takes charge of Sampath’s station, for just a day, and ends up investigating these crimes. Meanwhile, Mallika (Poorna) is found dead. In the background, there is the seemingly timid PC Vasanth (Vaibhav). Is he a red herring, or is he involved? Who killed Sampath?

Cast: Vaibhav, Venkat Prabhu, Poorna, Easwari Rao, Vani Bhojan
Director: SG Charles
Streaming on: Zee 5

Lock Up is essentially a whodunnit drama. The premise is engaging, with all the elements for a murder drama. Why was Sampath killed? Is Moorthy involved? How is Vasanth related to this case? On paper, the narrative should make for a gripping narrative. The film uses the unreliable narrator trope well, feeding us new bits of information as we go along. The ideas are smart, but the writing isn’t. The film has several twists, but thanks to the inorganic writing and staging, none of them land them with the intended punch. A game of cards is no fun when your opponent unintentionally shows you his cards. By lingering on a few wrong moments, the film squanders all suspense. It is also hard to believe this is the same Arrol Correli, who gave us a haunting background score in Pisasu, providing a score here that is so... empty. 

It is, however, the smaller things that severely erode the authenticity of Lock Up. Here’s an example. The wounded accused-murderer Ramar is taken to the hospital. In an attempt to escape, he holds Moorthy at knife point. Moorthy signals to Vasanth to shoot at a fish tank nearby, to create a diversion. This exchange, which ideally should have happened in seconds, is drawn out way too long. The film is replete with instances like these. Every moment unfurls as if the character exactly knows what he is about to face, and is waiting for the same, the way a stage artiste would wait for his cue.

The events of the film supposedly unfold in just a day. But this feels completely implausible. A complete investigation is a big process: evidence must be found and tested for prints, the accused investigated, murder spot checked, call records obtained and checked, etc. If our police could actually work at this speed, we wouldn’t have any pending criminal investigations at all.

What I did like about Lock Up are some of the performances. Easwari Rao and Venkat Prabhu play their roles convincingly. Venkat Prabhu, who was also seen as a cop in Kalavu, particularly carries the grey with a casual ease that the rest of the film lacks. Vaibhav is aptly cast as the meek policeman who turns over a new leaf under testing times.

There are great films, and there are bad ones. Then there are the average films. Lock Up is one of those. It sounds intriguing on paper and could have been a smart murder mystery, if it were not handcuffed by its mediocre craft. 

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