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It is with the opening shot that director Robert Klick defines mood and genre - a long shot of an exhausted man in a dusty two-bit suit carrying a suitcase and a gun approaching camera, coming out of the desert like some sort of gangster Moses. He passes out to die when Charles Dump (Mario Adorf) finds him and with him the suitcase that turns out to be filled with money. Dump takes him where he lives (the dilapidated remains of a mining camp) and a cat and mouse game begins.
It's pretty obvious that the script and by extension the entire movie was tailored to fit the found locations. The deserted mining town with the old buildings, dust seeping through the empty window sockets, adds a "lived-in" quality and production value no set can even come close to touching. We're talking about a superb location - ideal for the kind of bleak and atmospheric modern spaghetti western Deadlock wants to be. It's like some sort of mythic settlement left by its inhabitants for years to rot on the edge of the desert and forever vanish from memory.
The place tries to pass for some hole in North America - and the illusion is quite good, even the English dubbing is excellent by European b-movie standards. If Deadlock attempts a genre crossover between crime and spaghetti western, it's always done with the same wide-eyed fascination for America's mythic underbelly most Italians carried. And it's all the better for it.
After watching an interview with the director, it turns out that this mining camp was found in the Negev desert, somewhere between the borders of Israel and Jordan in the Middle East, and the movie was shot during or a little after the Six Days war with a lot of military tension in the region. Klick is right when he asserts that part of that tension and sense of adventure found its way in the actual movie.
Klick's direction is just as good. The cinematography and shot selection compliment the genre character of Deadlock - in many ways this is a tribute to maestro Sergio Leone and the spaghetti western scene in general. The sweaty faces, sweeping panoramas, dust blowing through the wilderness, extreme long shots and closeups, it's all here. And what's more, it's as bleak and violent as the best of those movies - it would certainly be in good company among Sergio Corbucci's ouevre. There's even a chaotic freakout near the end that is even worthy of the dinner scene in the original Texas CHAINSAW MASSACRE in terms of schitzoid paranoia and violence.
However the bad and ugly in Deadlock come from the same place as the good. That it is a b-movie quickie tailored to accommodate for a superb location. While the acting is decent all around (Mario Adorf easily stands out and *gasp* he doesn't chew the scenery at all), the script leaves a lot to be desired. The cat and mouse games between the main characters become predictable and tired when you realize they serve no other purpose than moving the movie towards its inevitable climax. Even the addition of a third character, an accomplish of the kid called Sunshine that came to split the money, does little in terms of variety. Now we have three characters trying to betray the rest and get away with the money instead of two. The middle section amounts to little more than a series of "they did this, then this" scenes but the explosive opening and closing acts that bookend the movie really make up for it.
While no masterpiece (which it could have been), at its heart Deadlock is grim, raw and honest. It will be just as easily enjoyed by spaghetti western afficionados as followers of 70's visceral crime cinema - Peckinpah's BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA comes to mind. Fans of NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN will certainly find something to appreciate here - even if it lacks the philosophical musings of McCarthy, at least on first look. I'd even go as far as say that for b-movie fans that live for the kick of discovering hidden gems, Deadlock is a must-see.
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