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Review: Lockout – and throw away the key

Lockout Film PosterIf you’ve ever seen John Carpenter’s 1981 film Escape from New York, then you’ve already seen the original and much better film that the new movie Lockout tries to be. Not only is the plot concept of Lockout lifted from the Carpenter classic, but the whole film feels like it came directly from the B-movie grindhouse-style pictures of that era.

Guy Pearce (Memento) plays the “Snake Plissken” role (minus the eye-patch) as CIA agent Snow. He’s been framed for killing a co-agent and stealing government secrets and the only way to redeem himself and prove his innocence is to rescue the President’s daughter, who is being held hostage by prisoners aboard an orbiting space prison called MS (Maximum Security ) One.

Pearce has potential to be an awesome film action hero, but he has yet to choose the right project to really shine in that role. He is sufficiently buff and badass in the part of Snow, but unfortunately the movie’s many weaknesses weigh down what would have otherwise been a pretty darn good performance. I’m hoping he gets to do the action hero thing in a better film before he gets too old to pull it off.

Maggie Grace (best known as Shannon on the Lost TV series) plays the President’s daughter who is on a bleeding-heart mission to the off-world prison when things go awry and she finds herself a prisoner of the people she came to help. Ms. Grace does a decent job playing the vulnerable parts of her role, but when the script calls for something a bit more stalwart, she falls a little short. This probably has more to do with the films script issues than her acting, as her character does not really know who she is supposed to be.

The fickle female role of the President’s daughter is unusual for Lockout producer/writer Luc Besson, who is well known for his films with strong female leads like La Femme Nikita and Leon: The Professional, but those were films he actually directed. For Lockout (directed by James Mather and Stephen St. Leger) he is only credited with producing and for having the “original idea” of the film, which as mentioned – is not very original at all.

Guy Pearce in LockoutOne of my biggest issues with this movie is a CGI motorcycle chase that takes place near the beginning of the story where the graphics look unfinished and worse than a substandard video game. Although the effects do get better (eventually advancing to old-school Battlestar Galactica quality) this cringe-inducing sequence sets the tone for the rest of the film and it would have been better had this sequence been cut completely from the movie.

There are multiple low-cost ways to tell a story without elaborate CGI effects and I never understand why creators insist on including poorly crafted animation that becomes a distraction. It seems like because they paid the money for the effects they are determined to use them, regardless of how detrimental it is to the project.

Another very big problem with Lockout is the character of Hydell, played by Joseph Gilgun. He is a depraved Irish psychopath that sets this disaster in motion when he overcomes an idiot Secret Service agent that is supposed to be protecting the President’s daughter. You can rarely understand a word this character says – and he annoyingly says a lot. I don’t know if the creators of this movie thought this unintelligible banter would be funny or if they were serious – but it is seriously not funny.

There is an audience for movies like Lockout, and when I say the film reminds me of an 80’s era grindhouse flick, that is not necessarily a bad thing if you know what you are going into and can accept its shortcomings. This isn’t high-art, but Pearce’s performance makes it kind of fun for a Saturday morning popcorn flick – if you can get past the part that it is a complete rip-off.

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.