A man wrongly convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage against the U.S. is offered his freedom if he can rescue the president’s daughter from an outer space prison taken over by violent inmates.
I really enjoy watching movies, I think a good movie can wash away whatever might be ailing you for a couple of hours. Hell..a bad movie can do the same. As someone who has seen way too many movies over the years I can also say that every so often I have to see a movie that is derivative of other films. I mean it’s not easy to be original every time out is it? But “Lockout” is something rather unique in that it uses some key plot components of a couple of different films and not only fails to build on them but also makes them seem absolutely stupid.
Have any of you ever seen “Escape From N.Y.” Or “Escape From L.A”, John Carpenter’s seminal action film of the 80’s & it’s less successful sequel? Well if you did (And really…who among you hasn’t)? then you know the basic setup here. The daughter of the President Of The United States is on a fact finding mission at a prison where there is absolutely no violence. This is because all of the inmates are kept in stasis, a form of cryo-sleep (As seen in “Alien”) in which each inmate is basically kept frozen in a tube for the length of their sentence. The real kicker here is that this prison (MS-1) is in orbit above the Earth. That might sound original unless you’re familiar with a film called “Fortress” (1992), a nifty little thriller starring Christopher Lambert in which the titular facility was in outer space as well.
And of course, the President’s kid ends up being taken hostage by the one prisoner that’s thawed out for her to interrogate. I don’t suppose it’s a big surprise that he just happens to be quite possibly the WORST prisoner they could’ve chosen for her to speak with. And I don’t think I’m surprising anyone by saying that (Due to some absolutely ridiculous decisions made by her security team) she gets taken hostage by this nutjob, Hydell (Joseph Gilgun). And what’s the first thing he does once he has taken control? He releases all of the other prisoners including his older (& smarter) brother Alex (Vincent Regan).
What can the president do? Luckily for him, he has a very wily secret agent that has just been captured after being accused of the cold blooded murder of another secret agent who is coerced into attempting a rescue attempt. His name is Snow (Guy Pearce) and I’ll be damned if he isn’t just a teensy bit reminiscent of one Snake Plissken, John Carpenter’s legendary anti hero from both “Escape” films (Played by Kurt Russell…like you didn’t know that already). One of the few differences between the two characters is their sense of humor. As Snow, Pearce seemingly has a one liner ready for nearly everything said to him. It’s sort of fun to listen to at first but his constant wise cracks grow tiresome quickly. I began to wonder what was so special about Snow in the first place and why was he so hard to capture? He seems far too busy thinking up quips to toss at his pursuers to evade capture for too long. Plissken had no time for crap like that, actually he barely spoke to anyone at all and when he did it was something along the lines of how he was going to kill whomever he was talking to. Snow isn’t very threatening to look at or to listen to and when you’re a man alone in a prison with literally hundreds of hardened criminals looking to off you, I think your appearance & demeanor are kind of important to your survival.
Maggie Grace plays the president’s daughter Emelie Warnock, and at times it seems like she is far more competent in getting out of hairy situations than Snow is which is hardly good when we’re supposed to believe he’s the toughest of the tough. She’s a lovely actress though & manages to imbue her character with a bit of softness while getting tougher as the movie continues. Regan reminded me a bit of actor Brian Cox in appearance and he also puts in a nice day’s work as Hydell’s older brother, Alex. As Hydell, Joseph Gilgun looked a lot like Marty Feldman to me & his Scottish accent was at times indecipherable but he did convey a satisfactory madness in his characterization. The relationship between the two brothers is comparable to the relationship that the Gecko Brothers (George Clooney/Quentin Tarantino) had in “From Dusk Till Dawn” as Alex bemoans the fact that he has to “Watch over” his younger brother because of his psychotic tendencies.
But the entire movie is placed on Pearce’s shoulders and this should be a good thing, Pearce is a fine actor who, over the years, has proved to be a most versatile & talented actor in a bevy of wildly disparate roles. But not even his prodigious talent can make a hackneyed script sound good…no matter how hard he tries. He actually seems a bit bored with all of the goings on as the movie continues, content to read his lines as scripted without any nuance. His few fight scenes are not only unrealistic looking but he nearly always gets beat up! Maybe it’s just me but shouldn’t he have kicked a little bit of ass every so often?
I don’t need to tell you anything else about the story or how it ends. You’ve seen it all before and you’ve seen it done better, way better. It doesn’t help that the script is stupid in the extreme either. Apparently the laws of physics don’t apply in outer space (You’ll know what I mean if you see the movie). It’s also apparent that people have gotten dumber in the future (The film takes place in the year 2079). People just do the stupidest things in this movie and although I know people have to do dumb things in movies to further the plot (If they did what they were supposed to do no movie would last longer than 15 minutes) I’m getting a little tired of it. It’s lazy script writing plain and simple.
The special effects are decent enough save for a motorcycle chase early in the film that just looks awful. It not only looks bad but it’s edited in a very choppy manner as well which just added to it’s overall awfulness. But besides that one sequence the effects work is fair enough. “Lockout” was produced by Luc Besson who knows his way around an action movie but he dropped the ball here. He also had a hand in writing the script along with directors James Mather & Stephen St. Leger who do as good a job as possible I suppose although I’m not gonna lose any sleep awaiting their next film. I should mention that the final 10 minutes of the film feature an escape sequence that is so patently stupid that if it wasn’t so close to the end of the film I would’ve walked out of the theater. And there is a twist at the end of the film which feels like it was lifted straight out of a old episode of “Columbo” which surprised no one in the audience, it was a piss poor way to try and surprise us and it fell flat. If this is the best these guys could come up with…..
But if nothing else, “Lockout” isn’t slow. It moves forward with a sense of purpose and although it’s stupidity is overwhelming, it’s not boring. The audience I saw it with chuckled at some of the jokes & groaned at others but most of them seemed happy enough when it was all said and done. It’s a decent enough time waster if there is absolutely nothing else to watch this weekend but “Cabin In The Woods” opens this weekend as well and although I had some issues with it as well, it’s light years better than “Lockout” is. I’m rating it 1 1/2 shrouds for some halfway decent acting & some almost credible action sequences but I can see it being available for purchase on the shelves of Best Buy in 4-6 weeks so unless you just have to see it right away, be my guest. Don’t say I didn’t warn you though.
Snake Plissken, you have nothing to worry about.