Action? Check. Science fiction? Check. Space setting? Check. Hot guy carrying a gun, blowing stuff up / blasting caps in people? Double check. Call me easy, but when I go to the movies for sheer mindless entertainment, that’s my check list. Don’t feed me any of that girlie-chic-flick-gooey-lovey-dovey stuff. No siree. I want my mindless entertainment to be action or science fiction. And if it’s both, even better. And there better be some explosions by God.
The thing is, it’s not hard to satisfy those cravings. There is so much sci-fi/action schlock out there that if you were to go to the video store (do those even still exist??), put on a blindfold and just grab something, you’d probably pull something like, Moon 44 off the shelf. No disrespect to Michael Pare (look him up folks) or anything, I’m just being honest. Or you could just tune in to SyFy for one of their original movies. Don’t get all sensitive, I’m not hacking on those. I’ve watched and even reviewed a few of them. I’m just saying, I’d prefer it if my schlocky action/sci-fi had a little meat to it. So, since that was my craving this past Sunday I decided to check out the latest fare, Lockout. The previews made it seem like it had all of those qualities tied up in one neat, hot, delicious, muscle-y….pardon me, I’m getting sidetracked…..package. What set this film apart from all the other dross that’s out there? One name: Guy Pearce. Guy Frakking Pearce. G is for Guy, and that’s good enough for me.
So here’s the low down: After a government operation goes south and a veteran operative is killed, Agent Snow (Pearce) is arrested and convicted of his murder. Sentenced to serve his time on MS-One (this was actually the films original title), which is a maximum security (get it? MS….ahem…) prison that holds an orbit above Earth. Yes, this film is set in the future….2079 to be exact. Meanwhile, the President’s daughter, Emily (Maggie Grace), is currently visiting the prison, gathering information on whether or not the clink is humane or cruel and unusual punishment, what with the fact that stasis jacks up the minds of the inmates and all. While Emily is there she interviews a prisoner named Hydell (Joseph Gilgun) who turns out to be the worst prisoner they could have chosen. He gets free and takes Emily and her team hostage, while also releasing the rest of the prison population. Chaos reigns and the suits on Earth see Snow as their only chance to rescue Emily, so he’s “offered” freedom in exchange for saving her from the perils of MS-ONE. At first he declines, but the fact that the only person who can prove his innocence is also in the prison, he agrees.
I know you’re probably thinking “wait….this totally sounds familiar” and you’d be right. It is familiar. All of it has been done before and really there isn’t anything new to this film. The difference here is that this one comes from the Luc Besson braintrust. Yes, the man who wrote Taken, District B13 and The Professional, also hatched the idea for this little nugget. Written by Besson, along with James Mather and Stephen St. Leger (the duo also served as co-directors), the script may not be anything fancy, but what it lacks in originality, it more than makes up for with dialogue. The one-liners run rampant in this film and for once, I wasn’t irritated by them. This sort of thing normally really grates on my last nerve, but Pearce’s delivery not only made them tolerable, but rather endearing as well. I know what you’re thinking, and sure…..I’d probably be entranced if he just stood there and read my car insurance policy, but seriously, coming from his character, it just worked.
Snow is your basic disenchanted-with-the-system-hard-ass-cynical-bastard that you want to hate, because he’s just so UGH! but you can’t because he’s got that damned charm that he wields like a magic wand. Much like John McClane, Snake Pliskin (since this is sort of like Escape from New York anyway) with a bit of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine thrown in there for good measure. It’s not that Snow copies these other characters, but they have similar personality traits: gruff and grumpy with a dry sense of humor. Make no mistake, Guy Pearce makes this movie work. The fact that he’s incredibly easy on the eyes also helps am I right ladies??
The supporting cast all do their jobs, even though they’re not given a whole lot work with. Maggie Grace thankfully wasn’t the typical crying damsel-in-distress and she actually held her own on-screen with Pearce. Joseph Gilgun as the psycho Hydell pulls out all the stops with the crazy and the ring leader Alex, played by Vincent Regan, is all nothing but quiet menace. Peter Stormare is Langral, the suit who’s determined that Snow is guilty and Lennie James is Shaw, the one friend that Snow has left.
Visually, Lockout could have been so much more. Given, this film worked with a small budget considering the nature of the film. With a little bit more creativity, it could have been something really grand. The CGI in an early chase scene is especially awful and looked like it could have been from Grand Theft Auto for your PS2 that’s sitting there collecting dust. It’s just plain bad, but once again, I didn’t care. I was actually more amused that irritated with it. I love the prison-in-space premise and with a bigger budget, or maybe just some good old-fashioned out of the box thinking, this film could had the potential to be something great.
For the legions of fans out there looking for the hardcore action of District B13, you won’t really find that here. The action is pretty good and the film moves along at a brisk pace, never taking time to meander in one spot for too long. Whether this is designed as a way to keep the audience engaged or to keep them from questioning the choices this film makes, is anyone’s guess. The flaws are most visible in those scenes where Pearce isn’t present and that’s where the film threatens to unravel. Like I said, he makes this movie and carries it around on his ridiculously buffed shoulders. And oh my….what shoulders they are.
Lockout is a rare film in the fact that I love it, warts and all. Will it hold up? I’m not too sure. I’m contemplating a second viewing just to see if it’s as much fun as it was the first time. As much as I hate to use that word, it was all sorts of popcorn film fun. It’s worth the price of admission just to see the opening scene.