Like most film reviewers, I struggle with the middling sort of films. If a film’s great, then you can heap on the superlatives and use phrases like “masterful use of mise en scene” to let everyone know you’ve read some books; and if it’s terrible then it’s a big race to see who can use the most hyperbole to dismiss it – “this film made me want to dig up my grandma, reanimate her and kill her again, it was so bad”. But for films like Lockout?
First and foremost, if you’ve seen “Escape From New York” (and if you haven’t seen it, you really ought to), you’ve seen about 75% of this film. It adds on a sprinkling of scenes you’re most likely to remember from other sci-fi films (the raid on the Death Star from Star Wars, most notably), adds on a bit of a subplot involving the main character being framed, and gives us romance!
Guy Pearce is Snow, a CIA agent who’s sort-of framed for the murder of his partner and is about to be sent to SPACE PRISON, called MS-1 (also the name of an excellent Mexican wrestler, which added a layer to my enjoyment). The opening scene is pretty decent, as he’s questioned by Peter Stormare, his old boss and one of the coolest actors around. Snow is way more verbose than Snake Plissken, and seems to be channeling Dennis Hopper from the famous interrogation scene in “True Romance”., and it appears Snow never met a line he didn’t want to deliver with a heavy layer of snark.
At the same time, the President’s daughter is on a fact-finding mission to MS-1, to make sure it’s all above board and the inmates aren’t being used as guinea pigs to test stasis and interstellar flight (see if you can guess if she finds evidence of this or not!) One of the Secret Service agents makes plot-driver mistake no. 17: don’t sneak a gun into somewhere you’re not supposed to have a gun, because bad guys will always steal it. President’s daughter, Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace, off of Lost), interviews insane murdering rapist fella, he grabs the gun, kill kill kill, all the other prisoners in stasis get released, whoops!
Snow is offered an amnesty, if he goes and rescues the President’s daughter. He’s all “oh, no thanks, I’m well up for a lifetime of stasis though” until the CIA guy who thinks he’s innocent tells him the person who knows where this film’s MacGuffin (a suitcase containing all the information needed to free Snow) is – on MS-1 themselves! So, our pieces are in place, and let’s watch the game – Snow trying to rescue the President’s daughter and prove his own innocence; the newly released and rather unhappy prisoners doing what the violent and deranged do; and Stormare and co. on earth, keeping track of everything.
This film isn’t terrible. I mean, I could spend several hundred words telling you about the plot holes (as a few IMDB-ers did in a hilarious discussion entitled “100 things I learned from watching Lockout”), but it would leave you with an inaccurate impression of my feelings towards this film. Guy Pearce is wobbling on the edge of being a parody of sci-fi action heroes; and the cast do their best with the fairly ripe dialogue. The problem I couldn’t shake off was the lack of a sense of urgency. The baddies are in one spot on MS-1, and Snow is in another, but there’s no indication given by the film of how close they are, or indeed where anything is inside this massive structure. Because of this, there was no “oh, can they evade the baddies?” or “how close are the baddies to discovering their hiding place?”
This film has one of the more unusual endings, where…nah, I can’t tell you. If you’ve seen it, you know how “amazing” it is, and if you haven’t then I’m not sure you’d believe me anyway. The President’s daughter is obviously very pleased with Snow, and after absolutely zero chemistry between the two of them they throw us a “hey, wouldn’t a sequel with these two as teamed-up asskickers be awesome?” bone right at the end.
It probably wasn’t as bad as I’m making out. A very long way from being perfect, mind, but it ripped along at a fair old pace, there was something blowing up or someone getting shot every few minutes in case your spirits were dropping, and Peter Stormare was just awesome every time he was on screen. So, if you’ve got some weird OCD thing about seeing every sci-fi film ever, like my friend Julian, then you’ll have seen thousands of films worse than this. If you’re in the middle of a Yasujiro Ozu marathon (another highbrow reference! And so close to the end!), I’d probably not bother.
RATING: 2 violent Scotsmen out of 5