If you took ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, sucked out all the blood, violence and fun from it, moved it to space and replaced the wise-cracking Kurt Russell with a smart-ass Guy Pearce, what would you get? LOCKOUT.
Stemming from an original idea in the mind of Luc Besson that looks an awful lot like John Carpenter’s cult classic, LOCKOUT takes a former CIA agent whose been wrongly convicted for the murder of a U.S. Colonel and puts him in the position of being the only man capable of saving the President’s daughter who is now trapped and being held hostage at a supermax prison facility in outer space. Okay, so maybe it’s not exactly like ESCAPE, but it’s pretty damn close. There are some variations on the Snake Plissken story and motivation, but when you break it down to the basics, it’s a one-man job of a formerly respected patriot entering into an impossible situation for a rescue mission of someone in the Presidential family.
The one thing LOCKOUT ever has going for it is Guy Pearce, whose presence in any movie, I believe, instantly makes it better. That’s clearly the case here as, without Pearce, playing the man simply known as Snow, LOCKOUT would be unwatchable. Snow can be a little one-note at times as a guy whose first language is sarcasm, but at least you can see Pearce having fun in a film that everyone else seems to be taking way too seriously for something that easily ranks below a B-movie. This is the type of movie you would have caught at like 3:00 in the morning on a Saturday night on the USA Network back in the day… you know, when no rational people would have been up to see it. It’s a script filled with snarky comments and pithy comebacks that give Snow the only material that’s entertaining to watch, because, outside of him, the rest of LOCKOUT is pretty much garbage.
The second Peter Stormare pops his face on-screen, you know he’s going to be up to no good. You'll be wishing he was given a role a bit more over the top to play into his strengths, too, because, LOCKOUT even manages to make him a bit bland as the overzealous head of the Secret Service, who may be underhanded at times but not in the type of sleazy way that’s at least interesting to watch. And forget about Maggie Grace as the President’s daughter. She’s so forcibly filled with message about the treatment of prisoners and basic human rights that when she speaks, she’s about as lifeless as a politician sticking to their talking points, and, when she tries to take the character beyond that, she becomes this shrill and annoying anchor weighing Snow’s entertainment value down that you almost wish he’d leave her behind just so we wouldn’t be subject to her performance any longer. That’s the real sentence of being trapped on the MS-1 prison… having to watch Maggie Grace try to be someone of moderate intelligence on-screen and failing miserably at it to the point of laughing at how bad it gets.
For a sci-fi actioner, you’d think LOCKOUT might be capable of at least dazzling you with its special effects. You’d be wrong on that count, as in the hands of rookie directors Stephen St. Leger and James Mather, LOCKOUT looks as if it was made by a couple of amateurs. The few fights that do exist are framed with the shaky cam, as to be expected, and there’s one chase sequence that is not only disorienting but the effects don’t even look fully rendered and it’s shot to look as if your seat should be moving beneath you to match its style as one of the accompanying films you’d see inside a simulator theme park ride.
LOCKOUT tries to play it safe for the PG-13 crowd, but, in choosing to not go all the way, the movie becomes quite silly at times and incredibly stupid at others. After all, how else do you explain a movie that features both the President’s daughter seemingly unaware that she’s dealing with violent convicts and a skydive to Earth from space? LOCKOUT was more than capable of being dumb fun, but along the way, only the dumb part of that equation seems to have been kept.
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