At the beginning of Lockout, a film from directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger, there is an opening credit declaring the film as based on an “original idea” by Luc Besson. That’s what entertainment has come down to, opening titles trying to justify a ripoff.
Snow (Guy Pearce with range fully extended) is an ex-government operative who gets caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time. His options are 30 years in a cryogenic prison (honestly I’m not sure the writers are fully grasping the punishment aspect of prison because this sounds like a much better alternative to living out one’s days behind bars) or rescue the president’s daughter, Emily (Maggie Grace) who is being help hostage at the same orbiting super max.
Snow has attitude, more so than Snake Plisken, higher brow than Duke Nukem. The guy seems to enjoy getting knocked around during interrogation while wearing a printed t-shit reading “Warning: Offensive” while smoking a cigarette in the 2070s—maybe in the future they’re known as health sticks. He’s chiseled and has a mind ready to dispense comebacks. No doubt about it, Pearce’s performance and the Snow character take prominence in any argument supporting Lockout.
As solid as Pearce is, and as acceptable as Grace comes off, the smallest supporting performances are down right pathetic. At one point Emily gets herself locked into a room. The prisoners go through a rolodex of engineers, each given the chance to fix the control panel to open the door with death coming to those who fail. You’d think with two directors, one of them would have inspired believable fear from these guys as they do have speaking roles. What I saw was non-actors nonchalantly walking onto a set with no sense of the stakes.
There’s some relief that FilmDistrict is behind Lockout, initially anyway, almost giving the allure of niche cinema with less compromises. Sure the budget doesn’t fully support all the action, such as the PlayStation 2 rendered cycle chase seen early, but Lockout doesn’t otherwise look cheap. The world is paper thin, but visuals either pay homage or are based on those from The Matrix and Blade Runner.
I already mentioned the cigarettes, but should a movie set in the future have iPhones, coffee, wood stock shotguns, or even especially eyeglasses? As utterly thin as Lockout comes across I highly doubt these are efforts to evoke a cyberpunk world, more like lazy art direction.
There really isn’t much to speak of beyond the setup because the action aboard MS One isn’t memorable. The two goofs that have seized control of the station only managed to do so because of an equally inept Secret Service agent. Cliché get set up and played out to the point that anyone with mild experience in viewing the action/sci-fi subgenre feels like a psychic.
Snow has an hidden motive to clear his name through a source stationed at space prison. This subplot is stronger and more original than the one-man army rescue mission that takes precedence throughout the film, that Lockout could have done without. I can’t stress how highly it speaks of Guy Pearce that Lockout can be considered a recommendation to those individuals motivated to see some attitude. **½