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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Doug Liman
scr Steven Knight
prd PJ van Sandwijk, Alison Winter, Michael Lesslie
with Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anne Hathaway, Ben Kingsley, Ben Stiller, Dule Hill, Jazmyn Simon, Mark Gatiss, Claes Bang, Stephen Merchant, Mindy Kaling, Lucy Boynton, Sam Spruell
release US 14.Jan.21,
21/UK Warners 1h58
Is it streaming?
There's a snappy quality to the dialog in this offbeat comedy thriller, which uses the everyday realities of lockdown as a backdrop for an impulsive heist. Director Doug Liman adds some style, combining video-call screens with cleverly staged physicality. Although the approach to pandemic tropes feels rather corny, and the extended running time is indulgent. So the movie is both entertaining and slightly dull at the same time.
Trapped in their house together during lockdown, Paxton (Ejiofor) and his estranged wife Linda (Hathaway) are avoiding each other. But there are things going on in their separate lives that they need to talk about. While Paxton agrees to take on a dodgy job as a driver, Linda is wrapping up a high-powered marketing project. And when they realise that both involve the same valuable diamond at Harrods, they hatch a plan to take advantage of the chaos caused by pandemic restrictions and steal it. It doesn't even need to be a very elaborate plan.
While it's set at the very beginning of lockdown, the script name-checks the now too-familiar issues of furloughs and redundancies, clapping for carers, zoom meetings and loo-roll shortages. Linda and Paxton both clash amusingly in video calls with their bosses (Stiller and Kingsley, respectively), and they remain busy right through the narrative, which splinters off onto a range of sideroads. So it's frustrating that it feels so aimless and repetitive, mentally stimulating but never resonant on any level.
Ejiofor and Hathaway bring plenty of attitude to Paxton and Linda, smart people who are annoyed with each other but haven't quite lost that spark. Ejiofor's hangdog expression is more engaging than Hathaway's fast-talking intensity. But the way the plot comes together prevents us from having sympathy for either of them. At least they're fun to watch, and the parade of starry side-roles adds a continual stream of witty, sometimes surprising touches along the way. But there's never much doubt about where each story strand is heading.
There are quite a few intriguing things going on in the various conversations, exploring much bigger themes about the innate cruelty of capitalism and the strain everyday modern life puts on a relationship. But both director Liman and writer Knight put far too much into the mix, straining through lots of over-written dialog for a collision of drama, romance and action. This might have worked if the plot was more focussed, but it's hard to generate suspense when the stakes don't feel particularly authentic.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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