Locked Down is a Shaggy Dog Screwball Comedy for the Lockdown

Locked Down is another unexpected production that came out of the lockdown of 2020. Written, financed, and shot within 4 months, it's another British approach to lockdown stories for film and television. Unlike the reactionary and exploitation thriller tropes of the Michael Bay production Songbird, it's a more sedate affair offering a picture of London under the lockdown.

Locked Down is a Shaggy Dog Screwball Comedy for the Lockdown
"Locked Down" still courtesy of HBO Max.

Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor play Linda and Paxton, a couple who were going to break up but are forced to live together under Lockdown. They've reached the midlife crisis point of their own lives and their relationship. He's an aspiring poet bitter that his life has him stuck in a dead-end job as a delivery driver because of a criminal record. She's lamenting her career as an executive shill for a soulless PR corporation, especially after she has to fire most of her staff in London. They argue, launch into monologues about their regrets, lament their free-spirited youth in the early years of their relationship. Then a chance to pull a heist on Harrods, the world's poshest department store, pops up that could save their relationship if it doesn't get them arrested first.

Locked Down also serves as a time capsule, showing the early part of 2020 where everyone in London was confused and apprehensive about the whole pandemic, hoping it would be over in a few weeks. Steven Knight, the creator of Peaky Blinders, captures Londoners' snarkiness and quirks perfectly, and director Doug Liman, who also directed The Bourne Identity, shoots with a light breeziness that gives the movie a brisk pace. This is really a theatrical two-hander that British playwrights have been writing since the 1920s, updated to the Pandemic. The stylized speeches that expose character quirks and themes require actors at the top of their game to sell. This could be the movie version of a play produced at the Hampstead Theatre in North London or the Royal Court in Chelsea.

It's mind-boggling that many critics have been so sniffy and sour about this movie. Has lockdown turned them all into grinches? They seemed to miss that this movie is a light screwball comedy with a heist thrown in at the end. It's not a tightly-plotted heist movie at all, though it has its own setups to pay off and twists when things get underway. It's not a masterpiece, it might feel inconsequential, but it might prove an invaluable record of the world during the Pandemic. As comedies go, the BBC's Staged is funnier, but Locked Down shows us more of London when we can't go out there.

Locked Down is streaming on HBO Max.

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About Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist who just likes to writer. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.
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