"If you like your sci-fi light on science and heavy on fiction, Lockout makes for a diverting ninety-five minutes of escapist entertainment."
Science fiction, Action and Thriller
Starring - Guy Pearce/Snow, Maggie Grace/Emilie Warnock, Vincent Regan/Alex, Joseph Gilgun/Hydell, Lennie James/Harry Shaw, Peter Stormare/Scott Langral, Jacky Ido/Hock and Tim Plester/John James Mace
Director(s) - James Mather and Stephen St. Leger
Writer(s) - Stephen St. Leger, James Mather and Luc Besson (original idea)
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and language including some sexual references.
Runtime - 95 min.
Despite the ham-fisted acting by most of the cast, the inconsistent futuristic tech and the sheer implausibility of the concept – I loved Lockout! Lockout is one of those sci-fi films that as you’re watching it you are quietly criticizing its considerable improbabilities, all the while laughing at the bad jokes and enjoying the sheer audacity of the paper-thin characters and plot! If that doesn’t qualify Lockout as a bonafide guilty pleasure – well I don’t know the definition of the term.
The previously mentioned “paper-thin plot” begins with CIA agent Snow being interrogated by Secret Service director Scott Langral. Snow has been arrested for the murder of undercover agent Frank Armstrong who was part of a CIA operation to uncover evidence of an agent selling state secrets about the space program. Snow answers every question with a smart-alecky comment, which is promptly followed by a punch to his face by a thug assisting Langral.
[Side note] A sample of this exchange sets the tone of Lockout perfectly:
Langral: Again, what happened in that hotel room? Snow: Oh, it was coupon night and I was trampolining your wife. [Snow is punched in the face] Langral: You're a real comedian aren't you, Snow? Snow: Well I guess that's why they call it the punch line. [Snow is punched again] Langral: You don't like me, do you? Snow: Don't flatter yourself. I don't like anybody. Langral: With that attitude, I can see why nobody likes you. Snow: Oh, come on. People love me. Just ask your wife. [Snow is punched again]
Back to the “paper-thin plot”: The daughter of US President Warnock arrives at the maximum security space penitentiary - MS One - to investigate claims that stasis might affect prisoners' minds, which she believes is leading to psychopathy and dementia. Emilie Warnock is interviewing Hydell, a psychotic murderer-rapist, who steals Emilie’s bodyguard’s hidden gun and uses it to escape to the control room, where he forces the operator to release the rest of the prisoners from stasis. The prisoners take control of the space station, capture the remaining crew of the MS One, and threaten to kill the hostages if they aren’t released.
Snow's agent friend Harry Shaw offers him a chance at clemency if he will go to the MS One and rescue the President’s daughter. Snow agrees, but only if Shaw tells him where Snow's contact Mace is, as he knows where Frank's briefcase containing the stolen secrets is hidden. Shaw informs Snow that Mace has already been incarcerated in MS One and that if he wants the information, he could do it during his mission. Arrangements are made and Snow is shuttled to the station, where he enters in a space suit in free-fall via a secret access panel.
Meanwhile, Emilie has escaped from the rest of the hostages with her bodyguard, but they are soon trapped in a room hiding from the prisoners and the oxygen is running out. Snow locates Emilie and attempts to bring her to the emergency escape pod, but first he wants to find Mace before he escapes himself. Emilie demands to tag along and the two brave massive odds against them in their gambit to find Mace, elude the convicts and escape the space station.
The silly premise of Lockout, which deliberately pays homage to action films like Die Hard and Escape from New York, works for one reason: Guy Pearce’s performance as Agent Snow! Guy Pierce channels the clipped speech of Willis’ John McClane perfectly! Pierce’s dry, droll delivery of the constant barrage of sarcastic dialogue that he is given in Lockout makes it work. Snow recites the entire plot of the film in this speech: “Don't get me wrong. It's a dream vacation. I mean, I load up. I go into space. I get inside the maximum-security nuthouse. Save the President's daughter, if she's not dead already. Get past all the psychos who've just woken up. I'm thrilled that you would think of me.” It shouldn’t work, but it does! Guy is also quite believable in the many action sequences he performs in. In one of the more exciting, yet silly fight scenes, Snow has to jump over a huge chamber, which is producing an artificial field. Just as Snow makes his push, he is grabbed by an inmate and they proceed to exchange blows while fighting against the turning blades of the anti-gravitational devise. This scene is both simultaneously rousing and preposterous; which sums up the entire film in a nutshell.
It is somewhat unfair to criticize the production values of Lockout, as for a film made on a purported budget of $20,000,000 dollars; it looks as if it had a much larger budget. The interiors of the space station look large and are crammed with many dirty details that give it a real feeling of being used and lived in. The CGI is adequate in most areas. The only sequence that didn’t work for me was the early scene where Snow is attempting to escape on a futuristic motor bike. The blurring of the CGI background looked unrealistic and took me out of the scene. Fortunately, the film doesn’t rely on CGI as heavily as more expensive science fiction films for the action sequences and this gives it a slightly more genuine feeling. The designs of the future tech are quite imaginative: particularly the design of the MS One itself. Because of this, one fault that stands out is the shuttle ships. Lockout takes place in the year 2079, yet the shuttles look like slightly modified NASA space shuttles, which first launched on April 12, 1981!
If you like your sci-fi light on science and heavy on fiction, Lockout makes for a diverting ninety-five minutes of escapist entertainment.
TECHNICAL: Acting – 7 Directing – 8 Cinematography – 8 Script – 7 Special Effects – 9
VISCERAL: Visual – 9 Auditory – 8 Intellectual – 6 Emotional – 9 Involvement – 10
TOTAL - 81