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Review: Keep your distance from pandemic set 'Locked Down'

Courtesy of HBO MAX


I can’t wait to live in a world that doesn’t include pandemic set movies with filmed Zoom calls. It’s bad enough we’re still battling the COVID-19 crisis, but it's another for movies like “Songbird” and now Doug Liman’s “Locked Down” to exploit it. Earlier in the year, it was a somewhat novel idea to film a movie in quarantine and Rob Savage’s 56 minute horror flick “Host” set the bar exceedingly high. Whereas horror lends itself to that medium, others haven’t been so lucky and it’s been downhill ever since.

Liman’s heist rom-com “Locked Down”- that we’re assured was made safely during shutdown - is a bore even without the global pandemic giving it a marketing boost. Wasting time, talent and energy of all those involved - including Oscar winners Anne Hathway and Ben Kingsly - we already have our first contender for worst movie of 2021.

Steven Knight - whose last film was the cinematic classic “Serenity” starring Matthew McConaughey - writes “Locked Down” into a tricky narrative corner that on paper could be something unique, yet as it stands (an “Oceans 11” but in a pandemic) nothing meshes despite the best efforts of this gifted ensemble.

Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor play a bickering couple trapped inside their lavish London house amid a countrywide lock down. The former spends her days terminating employees - at the behest of her boss (Ben Stiller) - and the latter FaceTime’s with his half brother and boss about anything and everything. Watching these scenes is like viewing our daily lives on repeat. I don’t turn on movies to be reminded of the hellscape we’re currently living, and yet Liman and Knight assume we do. It’s getting to the point where a Zoom notification sends a shiver up my spine.

Sure the couple has flaws and argue relentlessly, but something brought them together and “Locked Down” spends a good chunk of time trying to find that spark, but comes up short at nearly every corner. So instead, we get a half baked heist plot thrown in where these lovebirds plan to steal a priceless diamond and make out like bandits.

But as a heist film, “Locked Down” is painfully dull with minimal stakes and as a romantic comedy, the characters have zero chemistry nor does the pairing make sense. And considering HBO Max’s sudden dump on the release schedule, there’s a severe lack of confidence. Bizarre motivations and glaring plot holes overshadow an already strange premise and Zoom cameos by Stephen Merchant and Mindy Kaling offer minor joy in an otherwise horrid experience.

Yet the worst offense is how “Locked Down” paints a picture that staying home to safe lives in the middle of a pandemic is a huge inconvenience. Which is ironic considering this entire movie is one giant sham that everyone should maintain a distance of at least six feet.

Grade: D-

LOCKED DOWN debuts on HBO MAX Thursday, January 14th


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