Movie Review – Lockout
April 15, 2012 3 Comments
As a science fiction fan, I can forgive a lot about movies and their love/hate relationship with physics and how space itself works. I mean gravity exists in every facet of sci-fi films from small ships to space stations. There is no need to explain why it works, it just does and we move along. Don’t even get me started about explosions and sound in space cause that is a whole other issue. When a movie decides to give us the finger and just do whatever it wants with space itself, the results are beautiful. “Oxygen-fed weapons”, artificial gravity generators, space skydiving, and the absurdity of a space prison are just some of the things that Lockout manages to incorporate in the genre mash-up that reminds me of Escape from New York, but in space. It’s this bit of absurdity that I come to appreciate, even in the midst of a title card that reads “An original idea by Luc Besson”.
Lockout is about as cliched as it can get from an action movie. Taking notes from the template of all template movies, Die Hard, the film showcases the plucky and sardonic hero Snow, whom is tasked with rescuing the President’s daughter from the grasps of prisoners who have taken control of New York…I mean a space station prison. That’s the whole plot and I won’t go into the story since you can fill in the blanks of sarcastic, witty anti-hero is given an ultimatum to go on a suicide mission to save the daughter of the president, space shooting, blah blah blah. Lockout doesn’t rest on it’s laurels of story telling, but rather through the constant parade of action set pieces and comedic, sitcom one-liners that come out of the mouth of the lovable rube of an anti-hero.
The film relies on the familiar tropes of action films and the charisma of the Snake Plissken transplant Snow, played by Guy Pearce, to get us through the almost two hour long film. Snow is introduced to us as a one line spouting, reckless CIA agent who is wrongfully being sent to prison for treason. But wait, he has an opportunity to try out some new insults and wisecracks while having to save the President’s daughter Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace of the film Taken, who likes being taken hostage) from an equally interesting group of super max prisoners. Pearce is actually really entertaining as the titular hero Snow. With a certain cadence to his line delivery, every bit of dialogue is used as a vehicle for his humor and signature scoundrel persona. In a matter of fact, Snow is really a melding of different action genre personalities and the result is entertaining and gleeful. I particularly enjoyed Guy Pearce in this sort of film. The disregard for authority and sensibilities make his actions joyful and entertaining in the strictest action sense.
Lockout at its best is a silly, entertaining space romp with plenty of one liners and enough preposterous action sequences and situations to sate the die hard fan of 80s and 90s action fare. I am shocked by the massive amount of bad reviews for a film that is ridiculous from the start and premise. If you can’t look past the overused tropes of sci-fi movies and action films of old, you won’t enjoy the movie. I loved Escape from New York, Die Hard, and a litany of other films that Lockout borrows from and I enjoyed the hell out of it. It is pure popcorn enjoyment, but there are some shortcomings that don’t bode well for the film. The action is jumpy and there are some plot devices that are just dropped outright in the film. I get that they are used as a vehicle to drive the characters to action, but when you make a big fuss about prisoners rights and experimentation on them and don’t go anywhere with it, I get a bit testy. I can suspend my disbelief that fighter jets in space are not utilizing the full mobility of space to attack the bottom of the prison, but when you build a film on a certain plot point and don’t flesh it out, it feels incomplete.
Having two directors, James Mather and Stephen St. Leger, does show the tearing of the films thin narrative. One tried to develop a story and the other back loaded the film with so much quips and action that they just went with it. I would have enjoyed a bit more story, even if it is a bit unbelievable and heavy handed as I imagine the prisoner experimentation would have been. I would have loved to see Luc Besson take the helm and give us a bit of the Fifth Element vibe, but I will take some mindless space action over nothing at all. For first time directors though, James Mather and Stephen St. Leger, this is a commendable outing and entry into the glitzy space action genre.
Listen, if you are going into this film expecting something other than a space shoot-em-up, then you will be disappointed. If you are going in for a good time, funny one liners and passable action scenes, then Lockout is your kind of movie. The action is frantic, the story is short, and the characters are about as animated as they come. Pearce steals the show hands down with his smug self. Offensive, irreverent, witty, sardonic and a bit of an oaf, his rouge like ways will keep you engaged and entertained throughout the 110 minute run time. Just remember, in Hollywood Space, there are no physics. “Oxygen-fed Guns” be damned!
Short Version: pretty sci-fi film with all the glitz and lens flare of action films of old, but short on story and development.
*images via RottenTomatoes