Borrowing pieces, plot threats, and characters from the likes of Escape From New York, Outland, Demolition Man, and others, co-writers and co-directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger give us an outer space action film set 65 years into our future about an orbiting prison ship filled with the dregs of humanity, the President’s daughter trapped inside, and the one man who can get her home.
To put it bluntly, this ain’t Shakespeare. Lockout would feel right at home on as part of a lazy Saturday afternoon triple feature sandwiched between The Last Boy Scout and Runaway. It’s certainly a flawed piece of filmmaking, and at times dumb as a brick, but with a smart ass sense of humor and two likable leads the movie provides its share of fun moments.
Guy Pearce stars as our anti-hero, a Snake Plissken-esk burned government agent named Snow who finds himself framed for a death of an old friend and about to be shipped off to a space prison orbiting the Earth where he’ll be frozen and kept on ice for the next three decades. But when the daughter (Maggie Grace) of the President (Peter Hudson), while on a humanitarian tour of the facility, gets herself kidnapped in the middle of a prison riot aboard the station, he finds himself with another option.
Snow is offered a chance to sneak onto the prison and rescue Emilie, which will also give him a chance to find and talk to the one man (Tim Plester) who has the evidence to clear his name. Not surprisingly, the President’s daughter doesn’t instantly take the Snow’s dickish manner, but the pair must stick together (while throwing barbs at each other and dodging bullets) if they have any chance to make it out alive.
Lockout is dumb, but it’s got wit and a sense of humor that helps smooth most of its rough edges. (And there are plenty of rough edges.) Several of the fighting scenes look shaky, blurry, and rushed, but these become less of an issue once Snow is aboard the station and the amount of big CGI in each shot drops considerably. The film is lacking a great villain, as no real effort is made to flesh out the somewhat bland leader of the prisoners (Vincent Regan) or his unpredictable crazy brother (Joseph Gilgun).
There’s also the odd choice to use space shuttles (a decommissioned NASA program as of 2011 – more than 60 years before the story takes place) as the main transportation to and from the space station. I don’t know about you, but I’m hoping if we do have the level and ease of space travel shown in this movie (it sure seems easy to prep a shuttle at the last minute) that the technology involved will have improved over six decades.
Pearce works well in a role that would have gone Bruce Willis or Kurt Russell 15 or 20 years ago. Pearce and Grace have good chemistry together on-screen and most of their banter works well. The film doesn’t offer much in the way of surprises, but given the amount of unnecessary plot twists we’ve been forced to accept over recent years, it’s refreshing to see an more old fashioned straightforward adventure. And if the film doesn’t have quality bad guys at least it tries to make up for it in the sheer quantity of murderers and psychopaths standing between Snow and the way out.
I’ve also never been sold on the idea of freezing prisoners only to wake them up years later without any real punishment or rehabilitation taking place. They are basically the same person they were before, simply unleashed into a new world without even remembering their time behind bars. Although it doesn’t address this point, Lockout does add a nice touch by focusing on the unexpected side-effects of such treatment and on reasons why world governments would be willing store prisoners in space as guinea pigs to extrapolate data for proposed deep space missions.
Logic is far from the film’s strength, but Pearce is obviously having fun and invites us along on the ride. The film is helped immensely by his mere presence by providing exactly the kind of tough-as-nails anti-hero you want to see succeed, and if possible stick it to the man in the process. If you can forgive Lockout its at times glaring imperfections and limited understanding of small stuff such as physics and gravity, and keep your expectations low, you may find just the type of dumb fun perfect for a lazy Saturday matinee.