Fresh from our review of “Salute of the Jugger” a few weeks ago, I was about to make a joke about this being the end of our Rutger Hauer / Joan Chen season, but it turns out they made another film together, 1996’s “Precious Find”. Do you think they turned up for the first day of filming and went “you again?”
This is one of those great sci-fi B-movies that seemingly sprang up everywhere in the 80s and 90s. Frank (Hauer), Noelle (Chen) and Sam (James Remar) are robbing a bank vault which has $25 milion worth of diamonds in it – Frank and Noelle are engaged, but she decides to betray Frank and throws her lot in with Sam, after a hell of an escape sequence. So, after getting shot, he ends up in future-prison, and that’s where Wedlock comes in.
It’s sort of a clever system – no walls, very few guards, regular male-female “alone time”. Every inmate is fitted with a metal collar with C4 in it, and as long as you don’t go 100 yards from your wedlock partner, you’re fine – problem is, you don’t know you’re wedlocked to. There’s a line indicating a hundred-metre diameter circle, as long as you stay inside it you’re always safe. The inmates spy on the other inmates, because no-one wants to get their head blown off – if your partner makes a run for it, you’re done for too. You misbehave and you get put in the “The Floater” – a large coffin full of water, pretty much.
This is a pretty cool setup for a movie, but it’s only half of it – Hauer ditched the diamonds before being double-crossed, so no-one knows where they are; and Tracy (Mimi Rodgers) has figured out that Hauer’s her wedlock partner, and she wants out, reasoning that as long as they stay together, they should be fine. So the rest of the movie is chases and double-crosses and the two of them desperately trying to stay within a hundred yards of each other.
There’s a few flaws in the Wedlock system (some savant on the IMDB message board clued me in) but never mind that, because this is fun! Hauer and Rodgers make an unlikely but good team, Remar and Chen relish playing their OTT bad guys, and there’s a memorable turn from Stephen Tobolowsky as the prison warden and inventor of Wedlock. There’s a very brief early appearance from Danny Trejo too, seemingly pre-at least some of his tattoos, and a few good visual gags…it’s just a strong, entertaining movie with a clever central idea, and it’s absolutely worth a watch. If anything, it uses its plot points too quickly! The direction from Lewis Teague is okay, nothing too flashy or interesting (his IMDB bio’s first descriptive word is “efficient”, which says a lot).
This movie is also a minor entrant in the “Cubs win the World Series” range of movies. If you want to indicate you’re in the future, or an alternate reality, this is the trick that many many movies have used. For those of you who don’t like or follow baseball, the Cubs are the unluckiest team in the sport, having not won the main prize for over 100 years (this list gives a breakdown of all the things that have happened since). This trope is most famously used in “Back To The Future 2”, when the year of the Cubs drought-breaking win is…2015. If they actually win next year, get ready for the internet to explode.
Rating: thumbs up