Writer-director Carlos V. Gutierrez’s “Locked In” is not to be confused with 2017’s “Locked In,” nor 2010’s “Locked In,” nor the numerous short films that have also used that title in the past two decades. Nonetheless, this low-budget potboiler’s common moniker is emblematic of its generally generic nature. A thriller about a woman’s efforts to thwart a pair of criminals who come looking for their loot, it’s a rote and chintzy affair undone by clunky writing and inane character behavior that prolongs what should have been a relatively brief incident. Its prospects may be better on VOD than in theaters when it opens via both platforms on May 7, but most will wisely sidestep it altogether.
Save for a few brief scenes, almost all of “Locked In” takes place in a steely, nondescript storage facility run by Lee (Bruno Bichir) and his sole employee Maggie (Mena Suvari), who’s introduced getting accidentally locked in a unit, which causes her to promptly have an anxiety attack due to her claustrophobia. That episode suggests that Maggie’s condition will play a part in the ensuing mayhem, but no, it’s one of many elements that Gutierrez establishes and then immediately drops. Instead, Maggie’s primary dilemma is financial; with her oft-discussed but never seen husband serving time for armed robbery, she’s solely responsible for caring for her wayward teen daughter Tarin (Jasper Polish), who — following in her dad’s footsteps — has a predilection for shoplifting.
Maggie’s problems truly escalate when, after witnessing Lou behaving strangely with an angry customer named Harris (Costas Mandylor), she discovers that her boss has a hidden lockbox full of cash. Tempted to dip into that stash, Maggie visits the facility at night and winds up in the middle of a heist-gone-awry being perpetrated by Ross (Manny Perez) and Mel (Jeff Fahey), two thieves looking for the pouch of stolen diamonds they were having Lee fence. Things get bloody quickly, as well as perilous, since this fearsome duo soon becomes aware of Maggie and Tarin’s presence at the business, and enlists the former to help them locate their coveted goods.
This is a routine setup for what proves to be even more routine action, much of it embellished by people watching — and speaking to — others through the building’s security camera feeds and intercoms. With the phone lines out of commission, and Maggie’s cell phone disconnected, there’s little way for Maggie to call for help, although what’s impressive about “Locked In” is the way in which Gutierrez repeatedly gives his heroine a chance for escape, only to then sabotage it by having her (or Tarin) behave in a monumentally knuckleheaded manner. Let’s just say that when the cops have the jump on a killer, the worst thing to do is to unnecessarily and idiotically distract them so they can lose their advantage.
The reappearance of Harris further complicates this situation, albeit not enough, since Gutierrez’s script winds up exhibiting a terrible poker face. Sam Brave’s cinematography and Carlos José Alvarez’s score handle their functional requirements functionally (at best), but neither can do much with a story that relies on head-smacking developments and random exposition about Maggie’s personal and marital history, none of which has any bearing on what transpires. The only cast member to make an impression is Fahey as the stoic and murderous Mel, and even then, it’s largely thanks to his striking gray goatee and matching long locks.
In the final tally, everyone in “Locked In” turns out to be some sort of thief — fitting, given that the movie they’re in does little more than steal one’s own precious time.