Film Review: Lockout
Some actors strive for perfection throughout their career. They routinely turn down lucrative offers to focus on the nuances of their art, seeking out challenging roles in challenging films with challenging stories. They don’t care if the audience numbers are a little bit lower or that their paycheck is missing a few zeroes, as long as they continue on their path toward artistic glory. Some actors lose themselves in there, become so serious in this quest that they are forever lost in obscurity.
Others, like Guy Pearce, don’t. This acclaimed indie favorite, of Mementoand L.A. Confidentialfame, has regularly checked out of his art-house day job to simply have fun; ham it up for an hour and a half or so. Sometimes it doesn’t quite work out (case in point), but other times he makes us wonder why he doesn’t do it more often. Lockoutis an example of exactly that.
A film marketed as a bit of Die Hardmixed with a slice of Takenand spiced up with a healthy dash of Escape from New York, it is precisely that. Snow (Pearce), a secret agent wrongfully convicted of murder and treason, is about to be put into stasis and kept frozen on the MS1 space prison for 30 years, when a prisoner being interviewed by the president’s daughter (Maggie Grace) steals a gun and takes over the ship’s controls. He awakens all the other prisoners and all hell promptly breaks loose.
In return for a clean slate, Snow is sent up to MS1 to do two things. A: Save the president’s daughter and B: retrieve information from another inmate, Snow’s informant, who knows where a certain briefcase, which would exonerate Snow, is located.
Snow’s character is a collection of many familiar traits: He’s a loose cannon, foul-mouthed, sarcastic with a penchant for violence. He produces one-liners like he has to keep a franchise of warehouses stocked with them and even punches a woman in the face at one point. He knows how criminals think because “he’s not so unlike them”. In short, he’s a walking 80s action movie cliché. If Pearce took himself too seriously for even a second in this role, it would fall apart in an instant.
Thankfully, though, Pearce seems to be enjoying the rare opportunity to chew on the grey, industrial, not-to-inventive futuristic scenery, and fill the claustrophobic setting with a generous helping of cheese and ham. He’s a blast to watch in the more comedic parts of his performance, and being as talented an actor as he is, he’s also believable when confronted with the slightly more dramatic moments, like when he discovers the betrayal (a seemingly unavoidable ingredient in films of this ilk).
Maggie Grace, playing a damsel-in-distress for the second time in a Luc Besson-produced film, also obivously enjoys her role, where she gets a little more burn than in the otherwise fantastic Taken.
What prevents the film from cheesy greatness, though, is its heavy reliance on a tired formula. Every twist and turn is anticipated, from The Set-Up and The Mission to The Betrayal and The Redemption. The execution is too conventional to ever take the viewer by surprise and the scale isn’t big enough to distract him for long enough with impressive visuals to hide the oncoming twists.
Not that it doesn’t try. A frantic Earth-based police chase is way too obviously CGI-generated to be engrossing, and a certain Whedon and a certain Abrams have raised space-based action to such new heights in recent years that the film’s space sequences don’t thrill as they intended, apart from a single, very well executed collision scene.
The villainous prisoners are also grossly underdeveloped and overly clichéd. They’re led by a pair of Scottish sociopaths, whose unquestioned authority is never explained, being as MS1′s prisoners are moved to the prison in stasis and have presumably never even met each other. The plot-holes are also too obvious at times, where, for example, an active defense system, which shot down an entire convoy of police ships, only minutes later allows a sizable ship close enough to drop Pearce onto the prison station without difficulty.
Final Verdict: Lockout is filled with faults and tired conventions. It relies too heavily on its 80s action movie origins to become its own entity rather than a version of “Escape from Die Hard in Space”. However, Guy Pearce, aided by Maggie Grace, manages to elevate the movie to an entertaining romp, reveling in his simplistic, over-the-top character and delivering a gusto performance, filled with equal amounts laughs and coolness.
Have you seen Lockout? What did you think? Tell us in the comments.