Theatrical Review: Lockout

It’s the latter part of the 21st century and a former CIA operative named Snow is under investigation for a potential conspiracy against the United States government.  Things are looking pretty bad for Snow and he’s been told that he’ll be doing time on board MS One.  MS One is a prison that orbits the Earth and all of it’s prisoners are held in stasis to do their time.

Simultaneously, Emilie Warnock, the daughter of the U.S. President, is taking a little trip to MS One to investigate rumors of experiments involving the prisoners there.  As she’s interviewing one prisoner, a particularly bad piece of work named Hydell, things go awry.  Hydell manages to get a hold of a gun and quickly the tables turn to the point where the prisoners are all freed from their stasis chambers.

Back on Earth, it’s reasoned that the best person to go in and save Emilie is Snow and now he’s making preparations to go aboard MS One.

That’s the premise to Lockout the latest movie from producer Luc Besson’s production company, Europa, and it started as an idea from Besson.  For those that don’t know, as a director, Besson has directed films like La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element and The Professional. As a producer, Besson’s been behind films like Taken, From Paris With Love and The Transporter series.  Lockout is directed by James Mather and Stephen St. Leger and they also co-wrote the screenplay with Besson.

By it’s trailer, Lockout looks like it should be some pretty good mindless fun.  Well, really it’s just slightly above average as far as an action film goes, though there are a few saving graces.

Strongest of these saving graces is Guy Pearce who plays the part of Snow. Now Pearce has bulked himself up a bit and certainly looks the badass part.  What he does well though is that he doesn’t take the whole thing that seriously and it’s reflected in the character’s wisecracking dialogue.  He’s fun to watch whenever he’s on-screen, but it’s not for great action bits.  The other saving grace to the film is some pretty rich production design.  This has a terrific look to it and the visual effects are all pretty nicely done.

Where this fails though is in part of it’s casting and just the fact that with one exception, there really isn’t any great memorable action scenes.  Now of course, I’m a bit spoiled as I’ve just seen The Raid: Redemption the night before and that was just loaded with terrific and highly memorable action scenes, so much so that it makes Lockout look pedestrian in comparison.  Now I don’t expect every action film to go to the same lengths as The Raid: Redemption did, but I’d like to hope for at least a couple of really great set pieces in most action movies.  To my count, Lockout has only one that’s really inventive and that’s a motorcycle chase near the start of the film, with it’s only problem being that it’s over too fast.  After that, there’s really nothing to speak of.

As far as it’s casting goes, Pearce is the best thing about the movie going in.  Maggie Grace plays Emilie Warnock and she looks terrific, but she doesn’t really bring much else to the table.  Oh the script tries to get some adversarial banter going between her and Snow, but their chemistry just seemed a little too forced for me.  Vincent Regan and Jospeh Gilgun play are main villains aboard MS One.  Gilgun plays the abovementioned Hydell, and Regan plays his brother, Alex.  Neither are particularly effective in their parts and Gilgun is just hard to understand most of the time.  Lennie James and Peter Stormare play Shaw and Langral respectively and both are handling the investigation of Snow.  They’re both solid but man, I’d almost wish they’d been cast as the main bad guys aboard MS One instead as I think both could’ve brought a little more threat to the parts.

Lockout isn’t an offensively bad film, it’s just not that memorable.  It does run at a pretty quick pace (weighing in at 95 minutes) and it doesn’t take itself that seriously thanks mainly to a fun performance from Guy Pearce.  But really, this could’ve used a lot more in the action department and would’ve been helped significantly with better casting in the parts of the President’s daughter and the main villains.  As it is, it’s not a bad diversion, but one that you could probably wait to see when it’s no longer in theatres.

By Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

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