Just after the production and studio logos show up, Lockout gives us two on-screen credits.
- Based on an original idea by Luc Besson.
- Washington D.C. – 2079
Now then, if either of those grossly offend you, then it’s probably best you stop reading now.
The latest from the man who made his name in 1997 with The Fifth Element now pitches Guy Pearce as a man who faces a life-time of incarceration who is given a lifeline when the U.S. government ask him to go into space to rescue the president’s daughter from an over-run satellite prison.
So far, so ridiculous. And that really is the central tenet of Lockout, where no sense of logic or science will hold back any opportunity for a few laughs. This type of throw-caution-to-the-wind approach from the two first time co-directors (Besson is a co-writer and executive producer) was never going to sit well with stuffy critics (evidenced by the film’s pretty average review ratings), but it’s a very different story when playing to a packed audience of people in the mood to laugh at the over the top characters, supposedly tender moments and preposterous “plot” on show.
To be fair to Guy Pearce, he’s probably above this type of fare, but he’s always been up for a laugh as evidenced by his willingness to star opposite Samantha Mumba in 2002’s The Time Machine. His character in Lockout, “Snow” is a wise-guy know-it-all who we encounter in the first scene getting punched during questioning, responding with a joke, before being punched again, another joke, another punch and so on and so forth. He eventually accepts an offer of heading to MS One: Maximum Security prison after being told his friend is one of prisoners held there.
In recent years we’ve seen Pearce mixing with Hollywood’s big boys in The King’s Speech, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and the upcoming Prometheus. He has also won an Emmy for his part in Todd Haynes’ HBO mini-series Mildred Pierce and was the big name that brings in financing of independent gems like The Hurt Locker and Animal Kingdom. Add in a willingness to work in the Hollywood system, Australia, the U.K. and now France and he proves himself to be one of the most versatile actors working today.
Former LOST star Maggie Grace plays Emilie Warnock, daughter of the president of the United States. She has travelled up to the space prison to see whether prisoners are being treated correctly and see if there are any lasting effects from the prison’s practice of putting prisoners into a deep sleep for the duration of their time. Grace does OK as the “damsel in distress with a tough side”, but she’s really only here to play the straight girl opposite Pearce and his plethora of one-liners. Their main adversaries on the ship are evil Scottish in-mates played by Joseph Gilgun (who is actually English) and Vincent Regan (who is actually Welsh). They are pantomime villains of the highest order and the Babe: Pig in the City award for hamming it up will probably have to be split between them.
So LOLs and hoots aside, it’s only right to look at everything that is wrong with this. The marketeers for the film were quick to sell it as a cross between the seminal Kurt Russell action film Escape from New York and Besson’s calling card, the aforementioned Fifth Element. It doesn’t have the heart, drama or vision of either of those films and probably has more in line with such recent duds a Surrogates and In Time. The “science fiction” stuff is laughable and unimaginative, whereas Minority Report or Blade Runner make you step back and consider the role technology and surveillance can play in our lives, Lockout doesn’t really present any innovations or cool stuff. It’s a lost opportunity as it’s this kind of stuff that you can usually have a lot of fun with and give your film a unique and memorable identity.
All in all, Lockout struggles with its story, characters and genre (action trumps the sci-fi), but it does pack a hell of a lot of laughs and fun moments into its 90-minute run-time so scrapes a pass.
France / Directed By: James Mather, Stephen St. Leger / Written By: Luc Besson, James Mather, Stephen St. Leger / Starring: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Vincent Regan, Peter Stormare, Joseph Gilgun, Lennie James / 95min / Action, Sci-Fi / Release: 13 April 2012 (US/Canada), 20 April 2012 (Irl/UK)