One of the first novel concepts introduced in Doug Liman’s tossed-off, super slight, and interminably paced “Locked Down” pandemic-set heist/relationship movie that tells you a little bit about the central couple’s status is the “confession avalanche.” The rather unpleasant Linda (Anne Hathaway) and disagreeable, perhaps vaguely mentally-unwell Paxton (Chiwetel Ejiofor) are weeks into the pandemic in London (circa April, at the height of people losing their minds), both are in the throes of existential self-annihilation and have decided to part ways after the COVID-19 epidemic is over. So, unhappy and exasperated, Linda often unleashes vomiting rants about what she no longer can stand about Paxton, and many a verbal melee erupts.
And in the spirit of that TMI oversharing that doesn’t really benefit anyone, but is said regardless: let me tell confess to you just how awful, irritating, and useless “Locked Down” is, an insufferable talky movie billed as a heist, that’s really more two unlikable people who do not enjoy each other locked in a house for 90 minutes with a loose, not particularly exciting heist tacked on in the last 25 minutes (how an editor let this thing run nearly 2 hours is a discredit to everyone in the field).
Here’s another concept introduced during the pandemic that applies to the movie: the milestone birthday do-over. As in, if you celebrated a major birthday during quarantine, it shouldn’t count, and you can remain the same age for one year. This idea definitely applies to “Locked Down,” and perhaps should even be scrubbed from the history books as something made by Doug Liman and starring the aforementioned actors (Stephen Merchant, Mindy Kaling, Ben Stiller, Lucy Boynton, and Dulé Hill also co-star, but most of them just appear through terribly uncinematic Zoom calls).
“Locked Down” is dreadfully tedious throughout, a blemish for everyone involved. The plot, such as there is one, consists of Paxton and Linda going stir crazy, bickering, fighting, avoiding each other, calling relatives, co-workers, and friends on Zoom for respite. Worse, everyone is miserable, hates themselves and each other. Linda batch-fires colleagues over Zoom group calls for her soulless fashion company, of which she is a new CEO. Paxton is just lost, bitter, and still angry that his life has stalled and gone nowhere (ten years prior, he was arrested on an assault charge, and it’s limited his work options).
Eventually—literally at the one-hour mark instead of the first act inciting incident that almost any proper screenwriter would put it—they fall upon the idea that the job Paxton has been hired to do (drive a delivery truck and under false identity pretenses because of his employment situation) overlaps with Linda’s recent charge (tasked with clearing out inventory at a nearby Harrods department store that happens to currently possess a £3 million diamond which lays in the vault). Thus, amidst the squabbling, a heist emerges, Linda convinces herself the people she works for are evil (some undisclosed awful European world leader owns the diamond), Paxton feels like he’s owed, and they quell their conscience by agreeing to donate one-third of the money to the U.K.’s NHS.
While these are plenty of details, they’re all just slowly dripped throughout the story, building enough steam to arrive at a caper. Yet, labeling the movie as such would be deeply misleading as crime caper generally suggests something entertaining, delightful, and captivatingly nimble, all things that “Locked Down” are not. Likewise, describing the film as a romantic comedy would be an insult to the genre, and an affront to the notion these films are generally meant to be charming. Even the banalest editions of the genre, are generally not remotely this unfunny nor anti-romantic.
There’s more to “Locked Down,” a thread about fate and destiny, a little motif about poetry freeing us from psychological prisons of our own making— an absolutely terrible cliché about motorcycle jackets, masculinity, wildness, and how that free-spiritedness is a honeypot trap for women that’s missing in the lives of these people—but none of it amounts to much (and or, just piss-poor writing; and I will spare you the grossly offensive detail of Hathaway’s awful character pretending she’s single so as not to let her colleagues know her black partner is a criminal).
What’s most apparent about “Locked Down”—and this would be the final pandemic concept to introduce here—is that it is very much a byproduct of the panicked pandemic creative frenzy phenomenon many people experienced in March and April where many creative types just felt like they HAD to create (example, Steven Soderbergh wrote three screenplays in that time, though he’s obviously in the upper echelon of advanced creatives). Liman has pulled off the small-scale, quickly-shot, small concept movie before (2017’s “The Wall“), but this one misses the mark from second-one and an early contender for worst movie released in 2021 so far.
“Locked Down” seethes with the impulse of just having to tell itself despite having nothing to say. It seems initially keyed up—everyone operating under a notion of ad hoc, impromptu, make haste, and “creating content” as some misguided selfless gift to the public. It’s the same ill-advised impulsive rush celebrities had when they sang “Imagine” on Instagram as a poorly-conceived way to communicate the idea that we’re all united against this virus despite the isolation, and despite the fact, some of us are united inside million dollar-costing mansions. Both ideas came from good intentions, but both are highly regrettable in retrospect.
Resembling a patched together sketch of an idea, and a thrown-together filmed play, set (mostly) inside a house, “Locked Down” should have just been terminated in the lab, instead of rushing out like a vaccine of entertainment that cured absolutely no one of their doldrums. [D-]