Just as they decide to break up, London couple, Paxton (an overqualified delivery driver) and Linda (a Fashion company CEO) discover that they actually can’t. Required to stay inside their house due to the Covid pandemic, it’s fair to say they’re going quietly mad as a result.
However, everything changes when Paxton’s boss blackmails him into doing a delivery job off the books. As Paxton struggles with the morality of whether or he should break quarantine, Linda discovers that it is Paxton who will be moving a diamond out of Harrods on behalf of her company. With the diamond worth over 3 million pounds will the disintegrating couple throw temptation to the wind or still go their go ways? Let’s find out in Locked Down.
Locked Down is not perfect but it’s trying and in these times of not-so-lustrous releases...
So, with the virus epidemic now with us over a year, it’s not unsurprising that covid-19 has started to make its way into our cinematic consciousness as a result. Arriving in the form of this acidicly comic drama, director Doug Liman‘s Locked Down feels like its the first mainstream movie of the gate and its tone is a cautious one. Rather than tackling the epidemic head-on, Eastern Promises scriptwriter Steven Knight has decided to wisely to use it as the confining component in a situation comedy about a couple breaking up who aren’t able to. The dialogue travels at a thousand miles an hour and the tone feels distinctly rooted in a wisecracking American vernacular. With its primary job to paint images where the camera can’t go or cut-away to, this, unfortunately, lends the first act a slight radio play-like rigidity.
However, that said, if there’s one thing that this movie really has going for it, it’s the cast. With a veritable treasure trove of talent, Chiwetel Ejiofor is Paxton and Anne Hathway is Linda. Buzzsaw-ing their way through their character’s petty fights and tantrums, there’s a real edge to their stand-offs and the script’s dry comic observations don’t slow down for anyone. Fortunately, though there are intermissions to these hostilities in the form of friends and family lovingly harassing them via the internet. With video conferences whose comic potential has already been well established by the likes of the BBC comedy Staged, there really is no shortage of supporting characters to help innoculate Locked Down against monotony. Mark Gatiss, Ben Stiller, Stephen Merchant and Sir Ben Kingsley are all on board to throw a welcome spanner into Paxton and Linda’s disharmony and the film is all the better for it.
The film’s first real confession avalanche comes when Linda realises that it’ll be Paxton who will be driving her company’s multimillion-pound diamond away from Harrods department store and not some faceless nobody. -Should she allow smooth progress to happen? Or should she steal it with the man she’s longing to get away from? At this moment when she needs to make her mind up about what to do next, so does the film. Wisely veering away from the early suburban kitchen-sink squabbles, Locked Down also elects to change its tone and become a crime caper comedy instead.
So, whilst this movie is missing the sheen and elan of an Oceans Eleven movie, it’s still a brave, little gem albeit in a roughly hewn format. Anne Hathaway is triumph channelling the same mania as Nicole Kidman from Eyes Wide Shut and Chiwetel Ejiofor’s internalised angst owes much to the 80s sitcoms of Carla Lane and Alan Bleasdale. Ben Kingsley skirts around the gruffness of his Don Logan performance from Sexy Beast and even Bill Stiller feels at home, even if his family sabotages every single word that comes out of his mouth.
Earlier on I said, I thought this might be better relocated in the US, but by its end, I came round to believing that its absurdist, satirical edge is actually in the right place. Whilst it could benefit from occasionally throwing the brakes on in amongst all the squabbling, it does have one absolute clincher in the form of its not-so-subtle product placement. For sure, you could certainly transplant most characters in a New York minute but Harrods is staying right where it is, in London town.
In the meantime, watch Locked Down. It’s not perfect but it’s trying and in these times of not-so-lustrous releases, that’s good enough for me. Give it a shot.