Lockout – Movie Review
Much in the same way that January serves as Hollywood’s dumping ground for crappy films in the winter season, April is usually the month in which the lower profile films of the spring movie season are released. Lockout, the latest action thriller from the mind of veteran French screenwriter Luc Besson, is no exception to this due to the fact that it completely qualifies as a B-movie for a modern audience. However, Guy Pearce is the hero of this decently-budgeted film, so that certainly adds an extra coating of sweet awesomeness to Luc Besson’s latest cinematic concoction. Even so, is Guy Pearce enough of a saving grace for this film, or is Lockout doomed to imprisonment in the bargain bin?
The year is 2079, an age in which a maximum security prison (known as M.S. One) has just been constructed and put into orbit in the outer reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. When First Daughter Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace) is assigned to investigate and interview prisoners aboard M.S. One, a psychopathic, extremely murderous convict named Hydell (Joseph Gilgun) is provoked to the point in which he manages to kill a couple of guards and start a prison revolt, in which leadership is assumed by his brother Alex (Vincent Regan). Meanwhile, an ex-CIA operative simply named Snow (Guy Pearce) is framed and subsequently (albeit wrongly) convicted of murder and espionage against the United States. However, he is soon given a chance for freedom in exchange for rescuing President Warnock’s daughter from M.S. One and bringing her back home to Earth. Although he is initially reluctant to seize this opportunity, he eventually agrees to go and risk his life in order to ultimately save it, donning body armor and bringing suitable weapons for the upcoming mission…
After I had seen the trailer, I was sort of intrigued by the idea behind this film, despite how generic it seemed. Trust me, I had wanted to like this film. Sadly, there is almost nothing that can be said about Lockout that actually makes it a decent film. Every little plot point in the film is predictable, for from the very beginning we know that people will die and that Emilie Warnock will be rescued (in fact, I knew that would happen even before walking into the theater). This film in itself almost feels like an outright satire of action-packed B-movies from the ‘90s, but Lockout would possibly be better if it wasn’t so horribly generic (it’s essentially Escape from New York in space), the script wasn’t terrible, and if the story wasn’t as predictable, rushed and unbelievable. Unfortunately though, Lockout is all of these things, so in some ways it’s more of an unintentional action comedy rather than a thrilling, suspenseful and thought-provoking action flick. That’s not to say that Lockout isn’t entertaining though, because there is fun to be had in some of the set pieces scattered along the film’s runtime. These cool sequences are few and far in between, though, because most of the time we just see Hydell (the shirtless prisoner covered with tattoos) about to sadistically shoot innocent bystanders. With what I said about the nature of this film’s believability, Lockout is a very clichéd action flick in many respects, and there are some parts that are just plain stupid. These include the apparent fact that Hydell is a psychotic killer without motive or reason (I have heard of such cases, but even so, we never actually learn why he is a psychopath, which of course annoyed me to an indescribable degree throughout) along with a “skydiving” sequence in the very end of the film (those who have seen Lockout will know what I am talking about). In short, Lockout is just an average sci-fi B-movie, sporting a hilarious script (not in the good way), one-dimensional characters that you will never care about (except for maybe Snow, but perhaps just marginally so), along with simply a generic and predictable story to boot.
I suppose the only other redeemable thing about this film is that Guy Pearce and his character actually work. To be honest, this guy has not been in a lot of great films lately, but his reputation as a good actor will always remain. Lockout is a good example of his flexibility, because although he mostly has cheesy one-liners to work with in this film (naturally), he is still entertaining to watch in his role. Sure, we’ve seen derivatives of this same sort of anti-hero/convict protagonist in countless action films, but nonetheless, Guy Pearce’s Snow is surprisingly not annoying. On the other hand, the rest of the cast just made me want to shoot myself even until the credits rolled. I’ve always disliked Maggie Grace (despite the fact that she was rather decent in Taken), and her role reminded me why. She’s not terrible, per se, I just couldn’t care less for her “alright, where’s my paycheck?” performance in this film. As for the villains, the actors who portray Alex and Hydell have some of the most irritating Australian accents I have ever had. Alex was not as annoying due to the fact that his character was slightly more dimensional than his brother for rationalizing and analyzing various situations in some of Lockout’s more “serious” scenes, but I nonetheless didn’t appreciate how he was going for an Australian version of King Leonidas (or at least, that’s what he occasionally looked and sounded like). Hydell is absolutely one of the worst characters I have ever had the displeasure of being introduced in a film. Joseph Gilgun’s accent is horrendous, for most of the time I can hardly understand what he is even saying! Yeah, he’s almost (maybe equally) as bad as Tom Hardy’s Bane in the prologue for The Dark Knight Rises (by the way, I have my fingers crossed that his voice will truly be fixed by the time the actual film is released in July). I really don’t want to talk about him anymore, he’s just that bad. In fact, the rest of the cast is just bad enough that I want to forget that I even wrote about the acting in Lockout.
Special effects and production design are respectable enough for the first film from directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger. I must admit, a motorcycle chase sequence in the beginning is poorly animated and you can hardly tell what is happening at all, and some other sequences aren’t well animated either, but otherwise Lockout looks quite good for its modest budget of $20 million. Unlike most sci-fi action films, though, the visuals don’t exactly add to the overall quality of Lockout. The music doesn’t accomplish this either, but sound design is great in many cases though.
I think anyone that went to see this film could have expected that it would be an utter crapfest. And guess what? It is! That’s not to say that Lockout is already 2012’s The Last Airbender, though, because this film is somewhat entertaining and Guy Pearce is mildly fun to watch. Nonetheless, the latest film from writer Luc Besson is nowhere near the surprise that Taken was, for it’s the epitome of the generic B-movie from Hollywood. Sure, if you want to escape into Lockout (which is ironically, a film about a prison in space) for an hour and a half, that’s fine. However, I guarantee that even the great Guy Pearce cannot rescue you from complete and utter disappointment.