‘Locked Down’ is half of a good movie

Rick's Reviews

Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor star in “Locked Down.” (Photo courtesy of HBO Max)

(KGET) — “Locked Down,” debuting Jan. 14 on HBO Max, starts out being one of the best examinations of how passion can become pain since “Marriage Story.” Sadly, it ends up looking more like a B-grade version of “Ocean’s Eleven.”

The timely film has Linda (Anne Hathaway) and Paxton (Chiwetel Ejiofor) at the end of a long relationship. The love they once knew has died and they are ready to go their separate ways.

That gets stalled as neither had planned on a pandemic creating a mandatory lockdown. They must continue to live together despite emotional voids as empty as the city street outside their window.

Paxton’s way of dealing with the relationship prison is to work on a way to get past a tragic event that more than a decade ago changed the course of his life. Despite being on a furlough from his low-paying job as a delivery driver, his boss (Ben Kinglsey) pressures him into an off-the-books delivery job. The job seems ill-fated – especially considering the false identity they give him is Edgar Allan Poe – but Paxton negotiates the chance for a better job if he takes on the task.

At the same time, Linda is dealing with her white collar job with an international company that is ripping her apart emotionally. She is offered a chance to move up in the company while having to lay off a large group of those working under her.

The angst both are feeling is the driving force between the animosities they are feeling for each other. It is an almost unbearable situation.

That half of the film written by Steven Knight (“Peaky Blinders”) and directed by Doug Liman (“Edge of Tomorrow”) is a fascinating look at how relationships can come undone.  These are not two people who hate each other but no longer have the desire or energy to stay together.

Their conflict is exasperated by the emotional and physical solitude created by being locked down in their home. That element will resonate with those who are dealing with their own feelings of hopelessness and despair caused by the pandemic.

Hathaway and Ejiofor are up to the challenge of playing this couple. They both have a way of playing characters who look to be on the edge of an emotional breakdown while trying to maintain some level of civility.

That all is lost when Knight’s script takes an idiotic turn. Instead of staying with the emotional conflicts, “Locked Down” turns into a silly caper film. Their jobs give Linda and Paxton a fool-proof way to commit a larceny so grand they would never have to work again.

It would have been fine if Knight had created such an opportunity and Liman had focused on showing how a couple on the edge of a relationship abyss would react to such an opportunity. There could have been heated discussions about the criminal act made even more fevered by the anguish of months of solitude. It would have given the pair a focus for the anger, frustration and fears they have seen manifested by the pandemic.

Knight and Liman ignore that logical avenue to go down the main street of craziness. The second half of the movie has the pair going through the planning stages and then moving ahead with their illegal plans.

That might have worked (but probably not) if the caper angle didn’t have to rely on a massive amount of people acting out of character, lucky breaks and a massive amount of unrealistic situations. The illegal plan has them stealing jewelry worth $5 million but there is more security at a children’s birthday party than at the place where it is being stored.

“Locked Down” ends up coming across as if it were two different movies accidentally spliced together. The first half is a compelling story of love and loss set in a world that is painfully familiar. The superb acting work of Hathaway and Ejiofor make this half work.

Then, all of the emotional maturity of the first half is replaced by a silly finale. Even the actors look like they know the movie has lost its focus and are just trying to get away from work fast enough to make sure their checks clear at the bank.

If you feel compelled to watch “Locked Down” on the streaming service because you have binge-watched everything else, then at least stop the movie in the middle. Even silence is better than sitting through the second half of the production.

Grade 1 1/2 stars

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