NOW ON HBO MAX! Can we consider Doug Liman’s Locked Down the first post-pandemic film from a major studio? My issue is it goes far beyond what it needed to be. Depending on which trailer you watch, Locked Down is either a romantic comedy or a heist movie. Strangely, it’s both.
Starting with the rom-com, Linda (Anne Hathaway) and Paxton (Chiwetel Ejiofor) are ex-lovers forced to live together in Linda’s London apartment because of the COVID-19 lockdown. Linda is a high-powered executive who just got a promotion that will move her back to New York. Before receiving the good news, she had to furlough the entire London staff because of COVID (not really, because the company is being mismanaged).
Paxton is an artist and a poet, and on certain occasions, he’ll go out into the middle of the street and recite poetry to the neighborhood with mostly positive results. Paxton is also an ex-con and has trouble finding meaningful work, let alone work in general. Because of the coronavirus, Malcolm (Ben Kingsley) decides to hire him. Still, because he’s an ex-felon, Paxton has to operate under the fake identity Malcolm set up, Edgar Allen Poe.
Though living together, Linda and Paxton’s professional lives have been separate until now. Linda’s company, led by Guy (Ben Stiller), needs to transport a valuable diamond on display at Harrods to a brutal dictator. No problem, business as usual, but the transport company is sending Paxton to deliver the diamond. Because of the value and being at Harrods, Paxton’s fake ID will get him arrested and back in jail. This is where the diamond heist part comes in.
“Theirs is a romance between two very different people, who were once very much in love.”
I suppose the heist is an exciting logline to sell the picture and find an audience, but the real story is between Linda and Paxton. Theirs is a romance between two very different people, who were once very much in love. Paxton represented Linda’s bohemian life and as she found success, became busy with work, and wealthier, the two drifted apart. Paxton is who I found most fascinating. He’s a bright, vibrant individual whose one lapse in judgment limits his growth potential.
To me, the path of this relationship is the best part of Locked Down. They seem so different, and one wonders why the two were ever together. But throughout being forced to live together, we uncover what made Linda and Paxton click in the first place. I also loved that their story doesn’t go down a typical path. Sure the heist stuff was fun, but the very idea of a heist doesn’t happen until the hour-fifteen mark. For sixty percent of the film, there’s no heist. Director Liman could have left it out for all I care.
Addressing the whole pandemic element, Locked Down takes place primarily in Linda’s apartment, where Hathaway and Ejiofor are the only two actors on set throughout the movie. Interactions with the supporting cast are mostly done through Zoom—cameos galore with Dulé Hill, Ben Stiller, Mark Gatiss, Stephen Merchant, Mindy Kaling, Claes Bang, and the best one of all: Sir Ben Kingsley. Malcolm is such a complicated person, and we get it all over Facetime.
As much as I thought the heist element was unnecessary, which it is, Liman sure knows how to make it exciting, even in a pandemic. Locked Down ultimately is a love story and a good one too.
"…the first post-pandemic movie from a major studio?"