Film Review: THE LOCKPICKER (Canada 2016) ***

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The Lockpicker Poster
A teenage thief tries to leave town to escape the violence that threatens him and he people he loves.


Randall Okita


Randall Okita


THE LOCKPICKER is the low budget multi-award winning feature debut of director Randall Okita, arriving at big screens in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary for special screenings this week.  

THE LOCKPICKER was shot in actual Toronto classrooms over a span of two school years with a cast of non-professional teenagers in key roles.   This intimate coming-of-age drama follows high school student Hashi (unknown and newcomer Keigian Umi Tang) as he struggles to maintain a state of calm in the wake of the sudden suicide of his friend.  When people close to him are victimized by violence, he is forced to choose between fighting back and becoming what he fears, or leaving behind everyone and everything he knows.

Tang inhabits his role as the restless student with relative ease.  This is not an actor’s but director’s film.  There are no extensive monologues or other acting demands required of Tang.  Much of the character’s personality is established by the director.  For example when Hashi steals money from the jackets hug outside the classrooms, he only takes the small notes and not the larger twenties.  The director intends to show Hashi as a thief but with some conscience.  He takes only what he needs for the moment.  Hashi is displayed as the normal teenager at school, easily distracted with hardly a thought of his future.  Hashi  smokes weed, crashes parties and badgers adults to buy him liquor.  He is distracted enough not to complete the assignments necessary for him to quality for a sailing outing,  He goes around constantly distracted with a head set on.  Hashi is a fairly good-looking and fit kid who works occasionally at a shoe store.  Director Okita does not have Hashi commit acts that determine his character to be a likeable or unlikeable one.

As a first feature, THE LOCKPICKER looks sufficiently fresh.  It appears that Okita experiments quite a it with lighting, cinematography and camera placement.  The film is also variedly shot with steady cam and hand-held camera.  His eye for natural landscape and surrounding architecture is alas apparent when Hashi travels around the icy winter by transit or waiting at a bus stop  with the transit map in the background.  The Toronto winter is revealed to be a cold one with dirty snow and litter blowing across the snow and ice.  The film contains a comfortable mix of staged and free flowing improvised parts.

In Toronto, THE LOCKPICKER will be screened with a special Question and Answer a with Okita discussing the film’s powerful themes and its deeply personal connection on June 22 at 6:45 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox.The film won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Picture in the Discovery Section.

It should be noted that Okita was the recipient of the Toronto Film Critics Association’s (of which the writer is a member and involved) Technicolor Clyde Gilmour Award with a cash prize of $50,000, which made the production of The Lockpicker possible.


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