A “Covid comedy” is something that no one ever would’ve expected to be released. When I heard the premise of HBO Max’s “Locked Down” a week ago, my jaw dropped. The premise of a couple on the brink of separating (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anne Hathaway) during COVID-19 was a unique idea in its own right. The added twist of both deciding to pull off a heist of a high valued diamond during the pandemic was the icing on the cake. I don’t want to oversell “Locked Down,” but I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t massively entertained. In no small feat, that is due to the insane chemistry between our two leads.
Hathaway and Ejiofor are a pair that I never would’ve considered on paper. I really enjoy them both as performers, but their styles never seemed synchronous. As a couple on the fringes of separation during the pandemic, they make quite a funny pair. The love-hate banter of the first half is immediately identifiable and relatable, which makes it quite funny. Now with being shot during this pandemic, almost all of our supporting cast is filmed via Zoom calls. While we all may not consider Zoom to be the funniest outlet, director Doug Liman gets a lot of comedy from it.
The film has a lot of cameos via these Zoom calls with some of the laughs being incredibly unexpected. From our cast talking over one another to simple lags in audio, there’s humor in watching our new normal on-screen. The thrown in heist element lets our leads impress with how biting they can be towards one another. It’s the equivalent of some of Liman’s previous works as a director. He’s had an interesting career as a director of tackling films like “The Bourne Identity,” “Swingers,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and the great “Edge of Tomorrow.” Those are all very different premised films, but they have one mutual detail in common. Each film has a cast with phenomenal chemistry, which in this case shines through the script.
Like Liman, writer Steven Knight has also made a rather diverse career as a screenwriter. He’s written some really great stuff like 2013’s “Locke” and “Peaky Blinders,” but also some absolutely terrible stuff like 2019’s abysmal “Serenity.” The writing of the film is where the problems reared their ugly head. Films like this rely on a sort of “smarts” that can make these characters seem unrealistic. In most instances, it’s just a pleasure to see talented actors on screen but sometimes it’s hard to care about “rich people” problems. Thankfully we have two leads that make for more than compelling conduits.
Throughout “Locked Down” there are instances where I did ask myself one rather important question, “why should I care?” At the end of the day these character’s problems, pandemic or not, seem rather insignificant. What made me forgive the self-involvement was how the film acknowledges that very concept. Between this couple who’s on brink of separation, there’s so much humor in their angry admittance of each other’s flaws. That comradery is so sharp and “twists the knife” in such a way that’s hard not to laugh. It’s the kind of thing that in the typical slow part of the year, it’s quite nice to see something so fun.
Streaming on HBO Max “Locked Down” is exactly the sort of film you’ll get the most of at home. It’s quite funny and a pleasure to watch these two leads together on the screen. The biggest downfall is that it’s a film that really doesn’t amount to much in the long run. For something to casually watch after a long day, this one will hit all of the right buttons for an audience. When I watched it for my Saturday evening entertainment, I couldn’t think of a better new release to watch. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel but adds itself as a nice cog to the crime comedy filmography.