Locked Down, a Dreary, Sometimes Funny Account of 2020

Doug Liman’s dramedy about a married couple spiraling apart in quarantine might be relatable to more than a few people out there, those stuck in forever home with significant others, work and play clashing together and keeping the sparks at bay. Tracking the lonely melancholy of living in England circa peak lockdown at the beginning of this dastardly pandemic, Locked Down is a romantic drama that flirts with becoming a heist caper, but ultimately falls short. This is the first film about the pandemic, with the possible exception of micro-budget horror film Host, which I have yet to see. That little factoid is unfortunately evident on screen, with a majority of the picture conveying a stage play without actually coming across as having been adapted from a stage play (because it wasn’t) or even intending to evoke a stage play. In other words, limited settings limit plot opportunities, even if they give rise to more opportunity for both Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor to dig into their characters. Hathaway in particular was born to play this brand of neurotic desperation, a woman who’s fallen out of love and hating herself for it, a career woman whose free time and time to think has allowed her the ability to see her employer for what it really is: another cog in a wheel of privilege and corruption. Furloughed and on the verge of relapse, addict and former bad boy Ejiofor is enlisted by his employer (an irascibly funny Ben Kingsley, more or less reprising his Sexy Beast character) to rob a Harrod’s Store in downtown London. When his former other half decides to flip the script on her boss, the both of them find they still have something in common after all. The script has its moments, offering enough funny to keep our attention if not nearly enough to keep us laughing. The first hour is akin to re-living the worst of lockdown, complete with pajamas, constant Zoom calls, and a tone of depressing malaise. A running joke about “Edgar Allen Poe” never fails, while the romance itself never really clicks. Liman seems disinterested in the caper elements, relegating the film’s presumed hook to the last twenty minutes. I commend he and crew for what must have required diligent perseverance, and this is an admirable attempt at utilizing 2020 timeliness for dramatic effect. Locked Down simply doesn’t have enough distance from its subject nor enough pizzazz to either cohere as a film or fully entertain as a distraction.

Grade: C+

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