Alexander Dreymon takes a break from swinging broadswords on “The Last Kingdom” to star in something a bit more contemporary, Jon Kauffman’s feature directorial debut, the intimate prison drama “Heartlock,” co-written with Chris Cummings.
Initially, Dreymon seems miscast, especially with a bit of awkward introductory voice-over. But he slips convincingly into this role and this world, a maximum security prison. The film focuses on the complicated interpersonal relationships within this culture, like a gender-swapped “Orange Is The New Black.” Dreymon plays Lee, who teams up with a drug dealer known as Continental (Erik LaRay Harvey) in a far-fetched escape plan, which requires Lee to ingratiate himself with female prison guard Tera (Lesley-Ann Brandt) whom he recognizes from high school.
As a character, Lee seems unreliable and opaque, calculating at times, but wracked with pain over an old lover who never returns his letters. But what’s real and what’s an act? As he embarks on an increasingly intense relationship with Tera, how sincere, or sinister, is he?
“Heartlock” is lean, stylish and confidently crafted. It’s a showcase for Dreymon that proves he’s ready not just for modern roles but serious ones too. However, though it’s beautifully shot and simmers with tension among the trio, the pace is oddly off-kilter, burning slowly for far too long and then rushing the finale. “Heartlock” is a daring and well-acted drama that can’t quite get the timing right.
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills; also on VOD