Director: Goh Pei Chiek
Cast: Philip Keung, Hui Siu Hung, Raymond Wong, Samantha Ko, Yumi Wong, Chen Puie Kong, Tan Lin, Thomas Kok
Runtime: 1 hr 35 mins
Rating: NC16 (Some Violence)
Released By: mm2 Entertainment
Opening Day: 23 November 2023
Synopsis: A peculiar disappearance case leaves Uncle Shan (Hui Siu Hung) mourning the loss of his beloved wife, Aunty Shan. It also results in Chong Yi Jing (Samantha Ko) growing up without a mother's love. Uncle Shan was a locksmith, running a shop called 'Integrity.' However, due to an unexpected incident, he developed dementia. He later takes on a devoted apprentice, Cheng Ho-Yan (Philip Keung). Ho-Yan inherits Uncle Shan's exceptional locksmithing skills, becoming a master at opening locks, even surpassing his mentor. Because of his remarkable abilities, he's frequently called upon by the police, and this leads to a friendship with Detective Lau Yip-Sun (Raymond Wong). To this day, there hasn't been a lock that Ho-Yan couldn't open. However, during one locksmithing job, he reunites with an old friend, Lee Chuen-Hoi (Chen Puie Kong), whom he hasn't seen in years. From that moment onwards, a series of strange events unfolds. While returning home, Ho-Yan unintentionally hears his new neighbour, Miss Kuan (Yumi Wong), playing a harmonica with hauntingly familiar melody. Despite never having met Miss Kuan, Ho-Yan becomes curious and secretly observes her. Simultaneously, through Yi Jing, he learns that the mysterious case surrounding Aunty Shan's disappearance is far from straightforward and likely connected to Miss Kuan's appearance. As a result, Ho-Yan stumbles upon a murder case during one of his locksmithing jobs, making him the prime suspect in Lau Sir's eyes. What is Ho-Yan hiding? Has he encountered a lock he can't crack? What's the chilling harmonica melody about, and how does Chuen-Hoi fit into the puzzle? With Aunty Shan's death, how many people are entangled behind this unbreakable lock? Can Lau Sir help his friend clear his name? Could it be that everyone carries a lock within their hearts, with countless unknown stories waiting behind each door...
This Malaysia and Louis Koo’s One Cool Film funded production doesn’t boast any A-listers and yes even the prolific Koo is missing here. Instead we have the equally tanned Philip Keung as the leading man- the titular character, locksmith Cheng.
Set in Penang, the story revolves around Cheng, an introverted man whose only friends are police officer, Lau (Raymond Wong) and his mentor, Uncle Shan (Hui Siu Hung), the owner of a locksmith shop. Shortly, Uncle Shan’s only daughter, Yi Jing (Samantha Ko) returns to Penang from Hong Kong and plans to open a claypot chicken restaurant (product endorsement by the way) and also making up to his dementia-stricken father for lost time due to covid travelling restrictions.
Just when you are wondering where The Locksmith is going with all the mundane happenings in Cheng’s life, a past associate of him, Lee (Chen Puie Kong) appears to ask Cheng for a loan or join him for a crime spree especially given Cheng’s talent for lock picking. Of course, Cheng turned him down until all hell breaks loose when Lee continues to threaten the latter by harassing his friends.
At the same time, Cheng begins to hallucinate and feeling disturbed when a strange girl, Miss Kuan (Yumi Wong) becomes his neighbour and begins playing a familiar haunting tune on her harmonica. It seems Cheng’s past is coming back to haunt him and it’s time for him to open the biggest lock he ever faced- his heart!
The Locksmith is not a horror mystery or a psychological drama by a long shot. The story is more interested to explore Cheng’s inner struggles and guilt than going for some cheap shock value. Director Goh Pei Chiek aims to tell a meaningful story with “lock” as a recurring theme for the main character but he fails short to turn the narrative into a more captivating experience. There’s frequent throwback to Cheng’s past after the halfway mark and the story desperately tries to create some diversion by constantly making the character of Miss Kuan as sort of a red herring.
But the problem of casting a far well-known actress such as Samantha Ko and the early reveal of the cause of her mom’s death in an arson case (not a spoiler since its obviously linked to Cheng) underwhelmed the final twist. Still, there’s a decent closure in the end but not likely a worthy complex study to the whole proceedings.
Philip Keung who has been cast in supporting characters for the past decades is an underrated actor. His probably second foray as a leading man (after the acclaimed Tracey) doesn’t disappoint given his convincing portrayal of a man ridden with guilt. Ex-TVB regulars Raymond Wong and Samantha Ko unfortunately isn’t given much to do especially Wong who has been relegated to a forgettable minor role. Those following MediaCorp dramas will find Chen Puie Kong very familiar as once again, he plays a detestable thug for the umpteenth time.
Despite the flaws, The Locksmith is a decently shot atmospheric drama not to mention some very loud sound effects and soundtrack. If you plan for a date with the locksmith on a weekday night, you will still uncover some satisfaction in Director Goh’s effort and Keung’s performance.
(Decent not extraordinary crime thriller largely anchored by Philip Keung’s performance)
Review by Linus Tee