Keith Ten Eyck’s short film Lock-Out/Tag-Out opens by giving us information about the International Union Of Elevator Constructors; namely, the union is the highest paid in the world, but also among the top for worker fatalities. So, before the film even gets going in earnest, you know this is probably not going to end well.
The narrative then moves to introduce union worker Paul (Andrew Jurcak), playing father to his recently deceased brother’s wife (Jenna Fournier) and child. It’s a quiet mood, and the film slowly reveals itself, utilizing flashbacks to show events leading up the Paul’s brother’s death, and how all elements are related. It’s a stark, bleak feeling, as the film moves ever forward with a creeping sadness.
But that’s all I’ll say about the story; I don’t want to ruin it for anyone else, because I think the way the film shares its secrets is what makes it so compelling. It’s an ominous cloud from the get-go, so you’re not hopeful of much, but you’re nevertheless curious.
Which somewhat underscores the fact that the information at the opening is really unnecessary. It sets the scene, and of course explicitly establishes the dangers of Paul’s job, but that would likely come through anyway. All the info at the opening does is make you hyper-aware and expectant; the film works better when you’re absorbing its pace, as opposed to waiting for something to happen because of the hat tip in the beginning.
That’s really my biggest criticism, because I felt the rest of the film works well. Ultimately might be predictable to more than a few, but that doesn’t terribly lessen the film’s impact. It could probably be shorter as well, but I didn’t find much fault with the pacing; for the brooding tone that it establishes, the pacing fits.
The whole thing seems to take place in a haze anyway; it’s clear that Paul hasn’t recovered from his brother’s death, nor is it likely to happen any time soon, so he’s more like a distant observer of his own life at this point. You know how life can feel like slow motion when you first wake up? That’s the fog he’s living in.
Lock-Out/Tag-Out isn’t really the type of film you walk away saying, “I enjoyed that,” but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good movie. It just has an ever-present feeling of impending doom, so it’s quality without feeling comfortable. Ultimately sad and tragic.
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