Mark Reviews Movies



2 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Directors: James Mather and Stephen St. Leger

Cast: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Vincent Regan, Joseph Gilgun, Lennie James, Peter Stormare, Jacky Ido

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, and language including some sexual references)

Running Time: 1:35

Release Date: 4/13/12

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Review by Mark Dujsik | April 12, 2012

Accepted wisdom tells us that any action movie worth its salt must have a memorable or, at least, interesting villain. We presume the hero will just be some bland guy running around and shooting things. Lockout gives us a bunch of featureless villains and pits them against a scornful, mocking hero who might have as much apathy toward humanity as they do. Surely, this ne'er-do-well attitude is nothing new in an action hero, but when a movie's premise entails a riot in a prison that's orbiting the Earth, we need a hero who's more likely to laugh it off than not.

His name is Snow (Guy Pearce). Yes, he has a full name, and, yes, it's revealed by the credits. Even with a protagonist who sneers at just about everything that happens in the movie, Lockout just can't help itself when it comes to going along with the current. That's its biggest problem.

The movie also has plenty of virtues, too—most of which are probably unintentional. It's not only a riot occurring in a space jail (We can only imagine the look of glee that came across co-screenwriter Luc Besson's face when he came up with this "original idea") but also a space jail that happens to contain the President's daughter on a humanitarian mission when said riot breaks out. A lot of action movies feature ludicrously death-defying escapes, but few have one that has the capability to make physicists walk out of the theater with their hands grasping their heads in a tableau of utter frustration as this movie possesses in its climactic moments (More on this later, you ask—why, of course).

The year is 2079; the city is Washington, D.C. Snow is on the run from the authorities after apparently murdering a government official. He's innocent, but Langral (Peter Stormare), the head of the Secret Service, is convinced he saw the killing with his own eyes. Anyway, there's some top-secret information Snow obtains in the resulting chaos and manages to put in a safe place. This, of course, only happens after an unintelligible chase down a painfully digital highway that ends with a last-second save from an oncoming train (This, by the way, is not the aforementioned piece of perilous insanity).

The subplot of the espionage is really only important because screenwriters Besson and co-directors Stephen St. Leger and James Mather (credited as "Saint & Mather," which makes us think more of a street intersection than a directing duo) need to put Snow on a leash and start things out with a bang. It really only serves to bog down the denouement after what is the only logical way to end a movie about a space prison, which, again, is a completely illogical last-ditch effort to save one's skin (Seriously, it's a doozy).

Snow is found guilty of the crime without a trial (It's the future, people), and when Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace), the President's daughter, finds herself the captive of the escaped inmates in the space detention facility that houses 497 inmates and is known as M.S. One, Snow is offered the task to rescue her. He was on his way there, anyway.

The show at M.S. One is nominally run by Alex (Vincent Regan), who decides the hostages are his only ticket out of there, but actually run by his madman of a brother with an unintelligible Scottish accent Hydell (Joseph Gilgun, in desperate need of subtitles). Alex wants to keep the hostages alive; Hydell wants to take pleasure in killing them. Also, the space prison is on a collision course with the East Coast of the United States.

None of this matters except in the most basic of terms. We need a setting filled with long hallways where Snow can fight off inmates (He's given explosives in case he needs them, and one can only imagine he gets the idea for what he eventually uses them for when he read the presumed warning about aiming them away from the face off-screen), narrow air vents in which Snow can sneak around, and secluded rooms in which Snow and Emilie can get to know each other ("I thought you were a Democrat," he says, genuinely stunned, when she shows some proficiency with an assault rifle).  Needless to say, the two don't care much for each other, and we might be a bit uncomfortable with his handling of her if we didn't already know what a dastardly character he is and that she can take care of herself.

We need the villains, no matter how unimpressive they might be, and we need the ticking clock of the falling space jail because, well, the villains just aren't enough. Pearce turns out to be invaluable here as the movie's only means to unapologetically admit that the whole affair is a lark. Every time he's off-screen, the premise's silliness starts to seem exactly that—silly.

Yes, that finally brings us to the climactic scene of Lockout. Let's just say that, spatially, there's only one way out of space prison, and, when one is looking at a drop like that, it's best to bring a parachute.

Copyright © 2012 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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