Considering the charms and tribulations of the genre, I find it difficult to believe someone could make anything more than a blunder of adapting the key elements of a western flick into the misgivings and hardships of the modern world. Deadlock does just that, it is, at times, a real blunder of a film, struggling to make do with the rather primitive and simplistic script it has. But the misgivings can be forgiven for what is one of the few examples of the western tropes becoming a stylized, unique version of themselves, all found within this entirely forgotten West-German spaghetti western.
An amalgamation of a dying genre in a country not known for its output in said genre, Deadlock was ready-made for the cult film circuit. It’s a shame, though, as it offers up more poignant and engaging prose than many of the classics of the genre. Horses are replaced by cars, six-shooters with Tommy guns, and leather boots with plain shoes. We dive deep into a world that doesn’t entirely have the time to express itself, but does more than enough to expand on the characters we follow around. What Deadlock lacks in competent subplots and supporting characters, it makes up for with a trio of hardened criminals, each looking for a way to cut their two partners out of the deal.
Bandits struggling with trust issues begin to split up their loot after a successful bounty mission, they find themselves in a deserted mining town, fighting one another. Once an old miner attempts to steal their loot, the trio find themselves at odds with one another. Mario Adorf, Anthony Dawson and Marquard Bohm all come together under the directing efforts of one Roland Klick. They’re all exceptional, with great performances and convincing yet simple motives. They keep the energy alive, consistent and engaging, all thanks to Klick’s sturdy direction. His ability to draw tension and anxiety from the rather mundane surroundings, the bleak, deserted land, is rather impressive.
Whilst I’d expected a western filled with cowboys, dusty terrains, and six-shooters, I can’t say Deadlock disappointed me with its modern revisionism of double-crossing villains. It’s an exceptional piece of work, a bit aimless at times, but that’s the beauty of it. We follow this group of characters with double-crossing torture on the minds of each leading man. It’s a fascinating character study that doesn’t quite have the mettle necessary to deliver a wholly rounded story, but what it does deliver is arguably strong work from a genre that had all but died out by the time of this release.