Locked In is a taut crime thriller about Maggie (Mean Suvari), a middle-aged mother working a dead-end job at a storage facility to make ends meet. She lives in a dingy apartment with her daughter, Tarin (Jasper Polish), who has more verve for life than she has outlets to express it. The two of them share a loving but strained relationship; years earlier, Maggie’s choice to turn her life around resulted in the imprisonment of Tarin’s criminal father. So Maggie works to support them, day in and day out. She watches the security cameras; she helps customers to their lockers; she looks the other way when her coworker Lee (Bruno Bichir) makes a little extra on the side providing more secretive storage solutions. It’s not a glamorous life, but it’s a life, and after years of addiction and low living, it’s a decent one.
Until one night, when two of Lee’s private clients come calling and he makes a fatal error. Soon Maggie and Tarin are trapped in the storage facility with psychotic diamond burglars Mel (Jeff Fahey) and Ross (Manny Perez), who will stop at nothing to figure out which locker contains the object of their heist. They have two hours until their plane takes off and they leave the country scot-free. Maggie’s only option to survive, and save her daughter, is to use the wits she gained on the streets to outsmart her captors until help can arrive. It’s too bad she’s claustrophobic in a building full of closets.
Writer-director Carlos V. Gutierrez came up with the idea for Locked In when he was at a storage facility and wondered what kind of story could take place in such a common but cinematically underutilized space. Sure, storage lockers constantly show up on TV and in films, but he wanted to embrace it as a single setting. It works pretty well; there’s inherent geography to a storage facility that lends itself to a properly paced story filled with twists and reversals of fortune.
Suvari is good as Maggie, giving her real world-weariness. She’s a woman who has built herself back up from the bottom already. Although beating back the bandits who threaten her is challenging, she approaches it as someone who has seen worse, at least at first. Her recovery is her strength. Fahey and Perez are particularly good as the villains, who ooze nastiness in every scene. It’s always nice to see Fahey in particular, who can’t help but play a likable character even if he’s the one who likes to stab everyone he sees.
The simplicity of Locked In is its strength. It’s not much more than what it looks like — a 90-minute exercise in tension and release, with some game actors giving life to roles that could otherwise feel pretty cookie-cutter. The setting is used well, and I enjoyed it from start to finish.