Saturday 4 December 2021

Movie Review: Locked Down (2021)

A pandemic drama, comedy and heist adventure, Locked Down tries to do too much and with only the faintest idea of how to tie together a scattershot of themes.

In London, Linda (Anne Hathaway) and Paxton (Chiwetel Ejiofor) are a separated couple but still living together under a Covid-19 lockdown. She is the head of a marketing company's London branch, while he is a poetry-loving delivery van driver, his career prospects truncated by a stint in prison ten years ago. 

The pandemic and isolation have pushed Paxton to the brink of suicidal thoughts, while Linda is back to smoking and drinking too much wine, and is forced to furlough many of her staff members. Paxton's boss Malcolm (Ben Kingsley) offers him a chance at redemption plus some extra money, and his surreptitious delivery assignment dovetails with Linda's firm arranging the transfer of a precious jewel from the Harrods department store. Suddenly, the troubled couple can plot an almost victimless heist.

One of the first attempts to weave the pandemic's impacts into a cinematic narrative, Locked Down stumbles early into a needless representation of on-going turbulence. Director Doug Liman and writer Steven Knight never find the justification to recreate on the screen the drudgery of Zoom calls, patchy WiFi, overbearing loneliness, and exasperated honesty, at a time when all the pandemic's unfortunate attributes remain a daily reality.

Somehow the movie stretches to 118 minutes, the first two thirds unfolding like a two-person stage show. Linda and Paxton sift through the wreckage of a relationship troubled before Covid and pushed over the edge once the pandemic abruptly forced a reckoning of continuous close-quarters co-habitation. They engage in half-conversations, either honest or truncated, somewhere between arguing and cleansing their souls, and five minutes later, repeat.

The final third drops-in a most half-hearted heist, and Locked Down waves meekly at some thriller elements, never coming close to convincing. By this point Hathaway and Ejiofor are lost in the space between trying too hard and not trying at all, stumped by a lack of direction in both the personal dynamics between Linda and Paxton and the make-it-up-on-the-fly tour of Harrods, disguised as a theft.

Ben Kingsley's small supporting role as Paxton's religious yet unscrupulous boss is a good source of humour, while Stephen Merchant, Mindy Kaling, and Ben Stiller offer mostly Zoomed-in contributions. 

Locked Down tries to find comedy, pathos, drama, romance, and thrills in a pandemic context, and not surprisingly, delivers only sad approximations.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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