Review: “Locked Down”

I get the feeling we’ll be seeing pandemic-themed movies for quite a while as numerous productions actually had to film during the COVID-19 lockdowns and thus took advantage of that setting. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as some of these movies, namely the 2020 gem “Host”, help capture the effects of isolation the pandemic has brought to many. Warner Bros. new romantic heist comedy “Locked Down” is another pandemic-themed film, this time more specifically focusing on a relationship. “Locked Down” stars Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor as couple Linda and Paxton who are in the midst of a breakup but find themselves isolated together as the COVID-19 pandemic strikes London. Their isolation, disposition for their respective jobs and the revelations they experience through some soul-searching lead them to team up to rob a precious gem from a jewelry store. It’s an interesting melding of genres that provides us with a rather insightful pandemic film, although I feel like a much simpler approach to these themes would have made for an overall better movie.

Screenshot Courtesy of HBO Max

“Locked Down” has an impressive crew behind it. It was written by Steven Knight, a co-creator of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” and writer for several BBC shows like “Peaky Blinders” as well as the fabulous film “Locke”, during the pandemic and directed by Doug Liman whose filmography includes several action movies like “The Bourne Identity”, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” and “Edge of Tomorrow”. The talents of both of these men are present in the final product of “Locked Down” which depends very heavily on speedy dialogue, chaotic but coherent handheld camera filming and a constant energetic pacing that drives the story forward and rarely feels boring or padded, well until the finale but we’ll get there. “Locked Down” immediately drops you into a married couple’s dark isolation together and quickly defines their personal struggles spending plenty of time setting the tone and relationship for us to understand. The bulk of the film serves as a fantastic look into how their isolation challenges them as a damaged couple and as individual people finally being forced to examine the lives they’ve become to accustomed to.

Screenshot Courtesy of HBO Max

Hathaway and Ejiofor both bring their A-game with quick, snappy line delivery and a well captured sense of frustration with many facets of their individual and joint existences. There are actually several fun cameos from some comedy greats that I won’t spoil here because they weren’t in the trailer, but the attention is squarely on Hathaway and Ejiofor for most of the run time and they completely own it. While “Locked Down” has it’s flaws, which I’ll get to in a minute, it’s sharp focus on a couple in turmoil during a lockdown could have easily made for a great movie all by itself, and in this case, since we spend three-quarters of the movie in that scenario, the bulk of the film turns out to be a fine examination of this relationship and the characters themselves as people. There’s a delightful and insightful message that adds a strangely positive spin to the pandemic by revealing how all this chaos forced many people to take the time to reflect and realize that our lives outside the home may have had us more confined mentally than the pandemic caused us to be in a literal sense. It’s pretty neat to see it presented in a movie with what I considered a great pail of actors with fun chemistry that seem to be genuinely invested in what they’re trying to present. It feels sincere yet comical and, thankfully, also feels tasteful to the realities of the pandemic while also adding in some fun levity. The actors do a fine job selling their relationship woes and their disappointment as they reexamine who they’ve become not just as lovers but as individual people.

Screenshot Courtesy of HBO Max

Alas the film loses its way when it decides to be a heist film in addition to a dry-comedy pandemic romance story. The later quarter of the movie sees Linda and Paxton attempting to pull off a robbery in plain sight, eventually justifying their actions by agreeing to use whatever they might get from the theft to help front line workers in addition to themselves. I’ll leave it up to you to watch the movie to see if they pull it off, but this to me is where the movie lost me. It felt like a tacked on story thread to add some stakes to the final act. I’ll admit the heist does add some interesting tension to an already tense movie, but it’s the wrong kind of tension. I was doing fine wondering how this couple would cope, I didn’t need a race against the clock or morality problems to enjoy it. This movie was doing just fine as a fly-on-the-wall examination of a broken marriage during the health crisis and the personal struggles these two people have to deal with individually and together. I enjoyed a lot of what this movie provided me, but I felt like the final act took things in a strange and unwarranted direction that added commentary against corporate greed that felt out of place in a movie initially more focused on the very personal journeys of its character. It does serve as a neat way to help these two find new meaning in their relationship but again there was plenty of that already taking place in the context of the story. You didn’t need a heist to sell the most important points this movie had to share. The script and actors do it just fine for almost three quarters of the runtime.

Screenshot Courtesy of HBO Max

“Locked Down” has some great moments with its fast, often chaotic pacing and the engaging performances helping make it, in my opinion, an enjoyable, funny and sometimes depressingly honest look at a broken couple stuck in isolation during an already trying time in their personal lives. I wish this was ALL the movie was about though because it’s all it really needed. The heist element felt forced and led to the movie ending on a rather confusing jumble of anti-capitalist and morally challenging ideas that seem to betray an otherwise simple and solid examination of love gone sour during the pandemic. Overall, I’d recommend it for the many things I thought worked for the bulk of the film, but the finale left me feeling like it was an otherwise great movie that bit off a little more than it could chew. It might not stick the landing, but the ride there was worth every minute.

GRADE:

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