Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Locked Down’ on HBO Max, a Quarantine Comedy That Baits-and-Switches to a Diamond-Heist Thriller

LOCKED DOWN: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?

Paxton chats with his brother and sister-in-law in America and bemoans how he lost a friend because he was a COVID conspiracy-theory dolt; Linda screams into a pillow and experiences symptom paranoia, you know, where you have a cough and can’t tell if you merely inhaled a few granules of dust or if you’re going to straight-up die. They talk parallel to each other in a cacophony of irritation, or they exchange barbed repartee. She’s angry; he frequently jokes about killing himself. She’s a CEO who has to set up an online video call to let some employees go. She sits at the kitchen counter crying, and five pump-bottles of hand sanitizer loom in the foreground of the shot. He asks what she needs from the store. Wine, she says. He brings back the cheapest crap he can find. Shit sucks.

So what about the heist that’s in all the advance copy for the movie? Well, there’s all kinds of character development before you get to it. The run time isn’t chewed up by the assembly of a crew whose characters are defined by their one skill when you’re not mixing households for the greater survival of perhaps all civilization, so we’re stuck with learning a whole lot about these two people, who seem reasonably enjoyable to be around despite their current prickliness. Anyway, it wasn’t always crappy for Paxton and Linda. They used to be rowdy. They fell in love while zooming around on his motorcycle, drinking and smoking and drugging too much. He got in a scrape once and pounded a guy and ended up in the clink for a bit, which is why he can’t get a better job. But Fate Itself intervenes when her gig as a corporate whatever requires her to oversee the transport of a diamond worth £3 million — and guess which delivery driver lands the gig. Right: One of the two main characters in the movie, and specifically, the one who’s a delivery driver by trade. So maybe the “bad old days” Paxton keeps talking about were actually good? And is it me, or is that a romantic spark rekindling the lovers’ flame?

Performance Worth Watching: This movie would be DOA without Ejiofor and Hathaway’s romantically volatile chemistry. They work quite nicely together. I wouldn’t pick a winner in this actorly cage match — they’re on equally strong footing.

Memorable Dialogue: Linda chats with Paxton’s sister-in-law about a little sumpin-sumpin that happened in the past — via Zoom of course:

“That was just weed and curiosity.”

“We both had orgasms, Linda.”

“You know, they say these calls aren’t really the most secure…”

Sex and Skin: None.

Our Take: I’m happy to report that Locked Down is funny for reasons beyond Anne Hathaway frequently wearing goofy jammies. It feels long to gather narrative steam, wallowing a bit in the couple’s discomfort and cluttering itself with high-profile cameos by Ben Stiller, Mindy Kaling and Ben Kingsley. The diamond-theft plot doesn’t even stick its dorsal fin out of the water until well after the halfway point. If you didn’t know better, you’d think the movie was mostly drama with little funny bits tossed in, e.g., Linda mapping out a plan in Sharpie on a big 2020 desk calendar as if she’s writing off the whole year like the rest of us. The story seems to be steering towards being an exploration of busted relationships in These Complicated Times, what with all the glitchy Zoom communiques, inconsistent mask use, spiraling stir-craziness and general self-involvement frequently thrust into perspective by heartbreaking news on the TV.

And then the plot convolutes a little and it gets less plausible and more screwy but more fun, and hey guess what, turns out all that time spent getting to know Linda and Paxton was well-spent because we’re invested in their emotional well-being and therefore the amusing and suspenseful sequence at the end, and the movie ends up not being really about COVID, but about stuff that happens within the context of COVID quasi-quarantine/lockdown/isolation/whatever the hell you want to call it that we’ve all been experiencing, you know, the thing that might invite better description when we’re on the other end of it, which can’t happen soon enough, many expletives deleted. But at least there’s a well-acted, cleverly written, movie of medium-slight meaningfulness like this to pass the time.

Our Call: STREAM IT. Distractional meanderings kind of define our COVID lives, so it’s no surprise Locked Down has its share of such things, he said, sounding like an apologist, but also not feeling like he should apologize for it. It’s an entertaining movie that’s not about nothing, at least, and at best, casts These Complicated Times in the hopeful light that all this togetherness may bring us closer together.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com or follow him on Twitter: .

Stream Locked Down HBO Max

Read More