LOCKOUT
Author: JoAnne Hyde
April 13, 2012

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SYNOPSIS: In LOCKOUT, a falsely convicted ex-government agent (Pearce) whose one chance at obtaining freedom lies in the dangerous mission of rescuing the President's daughter (Grace) from rioting convicts at an outer space maximum-security prison.

The promos for Lockout made it sound like Escape from New York with a high-risk rescue of an important person from an extreme, high-security prison, but about 3 minutes into it, I began to long for Snake Pliskin. I’m having a hard time understanding why a fine actor like Guy Pearce would take on the role of a wise-cracking, unconvincing tough guy, wimpingly named “Snow”. Does he owe someone a lot of money? Come on – Snow? That soft white stuff falling from the sky each winter? It does NOT connote toughness! Although he sports an impressive pair of biceps, there is no way to take him seriously as a save-the-world (or save the president’s daughter) kind of guy.

Plus, this film rips off every action film and every space sci-fi film ever made, not to mention television shows. Five minutes into it, I thought I was watching “Burn Notice in Space.” Five minutes after that, it seemed more like “Die Hard in Space.” Or wait -- is it “Air Force One in Space?” Adding insult to injury, it even mimics Batman’s big-wheeled motorcycle from THE DARK KNIGHT in a sequence with special effects so bad they could have been lifted from a second-rate video game. Once we get to the space part, the effects improve, but it’s not enough to save the film from being trite and boring. Yes, there’s a lot of action. So why was I bored? Probably because the two thin plot lines weren’t remotely interesting, and the two main characters Snow (Guy Pearce) and Emilie (Maggie Grace) generated no chemistry or likeability.

One plot line involves Snow being framed for the murder of a friend and trying to protect a mysterious briefcase by passing it to a friend Mace (Tim Plester) who locks it in a subway station locker. The contents of the briefcase which people are willing to kill and die for are never fully explained. It may or may not have to do with a maximum-security prison space station in which prisoners are put into stasis (looks like they’re frozen). Stasis is a kind of suspended-animation sleep mode. Many who awaken from stasis are brain-damaged in some way. The president’s daughter, Emilie (Maggie Grace), arrives at the space prison on a humanitarian mission to check up on the rumored problems, and so begins the second thin plot line.

Very shortly after Emilie and her entourage arrive at the space prison, a recently wakened prisoner overpowers the surprisingly incompetent secret service agent and lets all of the other prisoners go. Snow, who was about to be sentenced to 30 years in stasis, is recruited to save Emilie in return for having his sentence commuted. The resolution of both plots involves his attempts to rescue her and find the missing briefcase. As for the prisoners, it’s a contest about who can act the craziest. One big flaw in the prison-escape scenario is how the prisoners will get off the station because it’s (duh!)in space. No worries, though. The prisoners seem to have no idea what to demand in return for their hostages, and actually, no demands are ever made. There’s plenty of confusion and mayhem, though. I guess the directors (James Mather and Stephen St. Leger) were hoping that all the action would distract you so you wouldn’t notice that the stories didn’t really make sense. The screenplay was written by Luc Besson, along with the two directors. I expected much more from Besson who wrote The Fifth Element and Taken. Maybe he and Pearce owe the same guy a lot of money.

One gentleman in the audience described the film as one cliché after another. I think he’s onto something there! If you’re in junior high, you’ll probably think Lockout is way cool. If you’re a serious science fiction buff, you’ll just be annoyed.

GRADE: D

JoAnne Hyde reviews films for BOF

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