‘Locked Down’ Review: In Quarantine, Misery Hates Company

A London couple endures the most mundane of Covid-19 miseries in “Locked Down,” a desultory comedy set in the early weeks of the pandemic.

The story centers on Linda (Anne Hathaway) and Paxton (Chiwetel Ejiofor), longtime romantic partners who suffer the trials, nay, the tortures of a life in lockdown: Zoom calls, pajama pants, cigarettes indoors. Linda whines about feeling listless; Paxton, in a marathon of poor taste, calls neighbors “fellow inmates” and jokes about suicide. Despite cohabitating, the couple has recently split up, and they avoid each other by working and sleeping in separate, lavish bedrooms in their multistory brownstone.

The film, directed by Doug Liman (“Mr. & Mrs. Smith”) and streaming on HBO Max, perks up halfway through, once Linda and Paxton each receive a work assignment to retrieve a 3 million pound diamond from Harrods for a wealthy client. The ordinarily law-abiding pair find themselves at a crossroads. Should they risk it all to pocket the diamond, sell it for cash and free their minds from bourgeois malaise?

Shot in the fall under pandemic protocols, “Locked Down” has a charming low-fi quality. Many sequences unfold on screens, as Linda and Paxton chat with colleagues or vent to friends over video calls. Ben Kingsley, as Paxton’s manager, and Ben Stiller, as Linda’s boss, appear only virtually, and Liman succeeds in milking the actors’ remote comic timing.

But mostly, the film already feels like a relic. Its pandemic jokes — toilet paper hoarders, Zoom freezes — wore thin by summer. We’re meant to identify with Linda and Paxton, to laugh knowingly as the pair descend into isolation-induced hysteria. Instead, the film evokes the era of the cursed “Imagine” video, when celebrities deemed the coronavirus a great equalizer while groaning about going stir-crazy at their villas. Like that Instagram misfire, the best that “Locked Down” has to offer, at least while we remain in the throes of a deadly crisis, is a window into a luxurious space to quarantine.

Locked Down
Rated R. Running time 1 hour 58 minutes. Watch on HBO Max.

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