In 2079, in Washington, the ex-CIA Operative Snow is brutally interrogated, accused of treason against the United States. The chief of the secret service Scott Langral believes that he shot the agent Frank in a hotel room. Meanwhile, the idealistic daughter of the president of the USA, Emilie Warnock, is visiting MS One, a maximum security prison in outer space expecting to find evidences that the prisoners are actually guinea pigs of a huge corporation. When one of her bodyguards loses a hidden pistol to the dangerous prisoner Hydell, he subdues the staff in the central control room and releases the prisoners, including his brother Alex who becomes the leader of the riot. Now the veteran agent Harry Shaw offers freedom to Snow if he succeeds in rescuing the president's daughter. But the idealistic Emilie does not want to leave MS-One without the hostages.
Directed by: James Mather
, Stephen St. Leger
. Starring: Guy Pearce
, Maggie Grace
, Vincent Regan
, Joseph Gilgun
, Lennie James
, Peter Stormare
, Jacky Ido
, Tim Plester
, Mark Tankersley
, Anne-Solenne Hatte
, Peter Hudson
, Nick Hardin
, Dan Savier
. Music by: Alexandre Azaria
It's been a while since there's been a decent 90s action movie throwback. Lockout has all the ingredients of a genre film -' a wisecracking, reluctant anti-hero that's as obnoxious as he is indispensable; a would-be damsel in distress who can actually hold her own alongside said hero; hordes of faceless goons for the hero to beat on; a menacing antagonists (prison break mastermind Alex and his lunatic second-in-command and younger brother Hydell) and a ludicrous setting (the US-owned prison spaceship MS-One for the eminent ass-kicking to take place on. The big problem with Lockout though is that said key ingredient -' ass-kicking -' isn't here.
That an action movie has flat characters, a cookie-cutter plot, second-rate acting, and similar offenses that would ruin works from other genres is pretty much accepted by most moviegoers. God forbid though, that an action movie not deliver enough action. The Expendables, the most recent attempt at a B-movie action throwback, was awful by most cinematic standards but it knew what it's job was -' entertain the audience with gunplay, explosions and general mayhem and violence as delivered by the biggest ensemble cast since... Valentine's Day. It might have taken a bit too much pleasure in its B-movieness and consequently missed its mark but at least its goals were clear -' entertain.
Not so much for Lockout. It's difficult to tell whether Lockout wants to establish itself as a legitimate, first-rate action movie or a high-octane, low-substance B-movie romp. Instead, it falls down somewhere in the middle path, a quick route to mediocrity.
Lockout has a few things going for it though, namely the casting of the lead roles. Where Taken made an action icon out of Liam Neeson (whom most audiences hitherto recognize as that guy who saved all the Jews in Schindler's List) Lockout makes a star out of a guy who's most famous for playing the thin, sickly amnesiac protagonist in Memento. Guy Pearce is definitely not anyone's first pick for an action star, having done more indies than blockbusters, but he pulls off the role with aplomb and steals almost every scene he is in. Ex-CIA agent Snow's got it all -' a devil-may-care attitude, more one-liners than you can shake a boomstick at (and they don't get old either), is almost as competent with his fists and firearms as he is with his wit, and has a humane and vulnerable side. Maggie Grace's character, (of Lost and Taken fame, the latter of which is another Luc Besson film) First Daughter Emilie Warnock, has a great rapport (or lack thereof) with Snow, as the idealistic yet sober-eyed foil to Snow's glib cynicism. She is definitely not the average damsel in distress, nor is Snow your typical knight in shining armor. The personality differences and "anti-chemistry" make this duo's back-and-forth a giddy pleasure to watch, more so than that of any ensemble cast's this side of the Whedonverse.
At the end of the day though, Lockout just doesn't have enough "action meat" going for it. It's got a nice big budget of $30 million, which bought some nice CGI (the scene where we see the cells with the prisoners locked in chemically-induced slumber is especially impressive) but the scene that's most likely going to stick with the audience is an early car chase sequence that looks like it was lifted from a bad Xbox sci-fi racing game. Disorienting camera angles and rapid-fire cuts alone don't make a good action scene nor will it disguise a bad one. The sets become hollow, lifeless backdrops when there's no engaging action happening in them. The scene where Snow has to float across a massive mechanical canyon to get to the First Daughter, just praying the gravity generator below doesn't fail him, brings to mind Mission Impossible but with none of the nerve-wracking tension. Also, one would think being trapped on a prison spaceship with hundreds of inmates recently awoken from chemically induced slumber is at least a bit claustrophobic but the sequences have about as much gravitas as an elementary school game of hide and seek.
And while everything is going to hell on MS-One, there's a subplot involving a mysterious briefcase and the circumstances surrounding Snow's criminal charges, which culminates with a twist ending, but it's a largely inconsequential afterthought that does nothing for the main arc.
Good antagonists can often redeem an ailing movie and Lockout does have quasi-mastermind Alex, who exudes menace and authority and his younger brother Hydell, the resident predictably-unpredictable rapist-murderer-psychopath. They get some great scenes where they terrorize the prison staff and various hostages but disappointingly they never face off against Snow. In fact, the two end up turning on each other, which might have been a shocking turn of events in another film and maybe even a good writing decision, but in this movie, which sorely lacks real action and confrontation, it's a misstep that puts the final nail in the coffin.
Review by Vincent Lee
from the Internet Movie Database.