This HBO film opens with a shot of an urban skyline and a title card that reads “somewhere in the future.” However, the city looks like a present-day city and the cars don’t fly and all of the clothing is 90s fashionable and the people in the movie use pay phones. Since Wedlock was made in 1991, I guess the movie takes place in … 1992? Maybe 1993.
Frank (Rutger Hauer), Noelle (John Chen), and Sam (James Remar) are professional thieves who have just managed to make a big score. They’ve stolen several million dollars worth of diamonds. Unfortunately, Sam tripped an alarm during the theft so Frank had to make off with the diamonds. After he hides them, Frank goes to the rendezvous point to meet up with Sam and Noelle. His partners betray him, shooting Frank and, after discovering that he doesn’t have the diamonds him, leaving him for dead.
However, Frank survives. He ends up getting sent to Camp Holliday, a prison run by Warden Holliday (Stephen Tobolowsky, who you’ll recognize as Ned Ryerson from Groundhog Day). The Warden explains that his prison is more progressive than most. Not only is the prison co-ed but prisoners are allowed more freedom to move around. The only catch is that all the prisoners wear an explosive dog collar. Each prisoner has a randomly selected mate, someone to whom they are wedlocked, if you will. Move more than 100 yards away from your partner and boom! Both collars go off and two prisoners end up losing their heads.
The Warden wants to know where the diamonds are hidden so he sets about torturing Frank (who has been given the prison name of Magneta) but he soon discovers that it won’t be easy to break Frank Warren. Even after Frank gets locked in a sensory deprivation tank, he just laughs and says the diamonds are with Santa at the North Pole. Another prisoner, Ivory (Mimi Rogers) approaches Frank and says that she’s figured out that she’s his partner. She wants to escape and she needs Frank to come with her. But can Frank trust her and, if she’s wrong, won’t both of their heads explode? Then again, who in the near future of the 1990s would turn down a chance to run off with Mimi Rogers? Meanwhile, Frank’s partners are waiting for him to escape from the prison so that they can follow him to wherever the diamonds are located.
Though the plot may be ludicrous, Wedlock works because it has a good cast (even Danny Trejo has a small role) and it was directed by Lewis Teague, who started his directorial career under Roger Corman and who has always understood how to put together a good B-movie. The prison scenes are more interesting than the scenes that take place in the outside world but the exploding head effects are cool and Rutger Hauer, James Remar, and Mimi Rogers are always enjoyable to watch no matter what they’re doing.