April 15, 2012
I'm willing to bet that Lockout will not be one of those sci-fi movies whose DVD comes with a bunch of comments from scientists and "experts" about how they made the science "real". It's pretty evident throughout the film that filmmakers James Mather & Stephen St. Leger - who were working on their first feature from a story by action maestro Luc Besson - didn't care much for bringing scientific realism into their film.
Astrophysical properties and things like the law of gravity are just some of the real world concepts that are thrown out the window in Lockout, a rather thoughtless action film that takes "check your mind at the door" and runs with it. Y'all should know by now that I'm far from the most discriminating viewer in the world, so it's little surprise that I'm cool with that mindset.
Lockout takes on the Snake Plissken formula, sending a badass dude named Snow - played in a surprising turn by generally serious thespian Guy Pearce - to a maximum security space prison where the President of the United States' daughter (Lost's Maggie Grace) has become a hostage to a rioting prison populace of killers and madmen. Unlike Plissken, we get a lot of background into just why Snow is a fugitive and how he's getting to Space Station Shawshank (my name, not theirs), though Snow's background is really never developed outside of a title card that conveniently lists him as "Ex-C.I.A."
Pearce's dialogue consists entirely of one-liners and sarcastic quips, all of which he delivers in an exceedingly dry manner. It's slightly tedious, but it fits with the ridiculous premise and fast-paced story. The hero's tone is a departure from silent heroes (think Jason Statham in the Transporter films) or mature professionals (Liam Neeson in Taken) that have filled other Besson-scripted works of the last half decade, and I think some audience members will be put off by the smug hero. The rest of the cast is pretty standard: Grace does damsel in distress with an edge, European dudes with tattoos and scars do villains, and Snatch's Lennie James and Fargo's Peter Stormare play the cops dealing with Snow. None really stand out in positive or negative ways.
The biggest problem with Lockout is probably how carefree the whole thing feels, bouncing from one plot turn to another with ease and never really taking any kind of time to make the film feel like something anyone should be invested in. It's not violent or bloody enough to hit a cult cinema home run either - this film absolutely must have been neutered down to a PG-13 by the studio, even leaving an exploding head on the cutting room floor. It's about 100 minutes of Pearce being smug, people getting punched and shot, and ridiculous set pieces that involve space battles and people going out airlocks. That's all it is.
When I look back on that last sentence, it's easy to see why I had fun with Lockout. It's a mindless action flick with a successful lead that looks really good. It has absolutely no depth and will drive people who judge movies based on whether or not they could happen in the real world mad with anger, but it's a formula film that achieves its goals. I don't recommend going out of your way for Lockout, but it's probably worth a rental.