Combustible Celluloid
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With: Mena Suvari, Jasper Polish, Jeff Fahey, Manny Perez, Costas Mandylor, Bruno Bichir
Written by: Carlos V. Gutierrez
Directed by: Carlos V. Gutierrez
MPAA Rating: R for violence, and language throughout
Running Time: 90
Date: 05/07/2021

Locked In (2021)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Mold Storage

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Making unique use of its enclosed location, the tough, energetic action/thriller Locked In never quite manages to get moving, largely thanks to too many thin characters and all-too-familiar story elements.

Maggie (Mena Suvari) is struggling to get by, working in a high-tech storage facility and living in a run-down hotel with her teen daughter Tarin (Jasper Polish). One day she discovers a secret stash of cash in her boss, Lee's (Bruno Bichir), office. One night she decides to steal some money to help pay her overdue rent, and drives to the facility with Tarin.

Once there, she changes her mind. But, unfortunately, two thugs — Ross (Manny Perez) and Mel (Jeff Fahey) — also show up, looking for a bag of stolen diamonds. In the process, they murder Lee. Maggie must keep her wits sharp in order to protect Tarin and get both of them out of there alive.

A feature writing and directing debut by Carlos V. Gutierrez, the use of the storage facility in Locked In is inspired, with its endless hallways, mysterious, roll-down steel doors, and surveillance cameras, although the movie employs these things more to keep viewers off-balance than as a clever use of space. Even with the movie coming in at a tight 90 minutes, it still feels sluggish. Perhaps this is because the characters are hard to care about.

Maggie comes with tons of backstory — she's a former thief and addict who was "rescued" by a loving husband and then turned to religion — and yet she still feels either on or off. She's either pessimistic and weary or clever and deceptive. (Not to mention that her claustrophobia, set up in the movie's opening, is never really used for anything.)

The bad guys all come across as flat and quite typical, and a "twist" involving one of them is terribly obvious and far from a surprise. Weirdly, Jasper Polish (the daughter of filmmaker Michael Polish) is the only one that feels alive; she's a precocious teen who is not in the least intimidated. It's too bad the rest of Locked In couldn't have tapped into that life force.

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