Susan Granger’s review of “Lockout” (Film District/Open Road)
In this derivative sci-fi thriller, set in 2079, Snow (Guy Pearce), a falsely convicted rogue government agent, is given one chance for freedom when Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace), the daughter of the President of the United States, is taken hostage at MS One, an outer-space maximum-security prison that orbits Earth and maintains 500 convicts in cryogenic stasis. Emilie was on a humanitarian mission to study prisoner conditions in this experimental, high-tech penal colony and, if Snow can rescue her, he goes free. Meanwhile, there’s this mysteriously missing metal attaché case containing Top Secret government papers – and Snow’s buddy Mace just happens to be incarcerated up in the space station too.
Chaos reigns amid the predictably excessive shootouts, but even that nonsense becomes totally preposterous when Snow and Emily don space suits and leap into the inky stratosphere high above the surface of Earth, tumbling around a bit in a free-fall before a parachute opens, and they land gently on the paved surface of an urban highway – with nary a scratch nor bruise.
Produced and co-written by Luc Besson (“La Femme Nikita,” “Transporter,” “Colombiana”), who should know better, it’s sarcastically scripted and generically directed by Irish newcomers Stephen St. Leger and James Mather, who have lifted recognizable, clichéd elements primarily from John Carpenter’s “Escape from New York” (1981) but also from “Fortress,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Die Hard,” “Outland,” even James Bond. Filmed in Serbia with clumsy CG effects, it looks like a cheesy B-movie.
Although you’d never know it from the way he channels Kurt Russell’s Snake Plissken, Guy Pearce (“L.A. Confidential,” HBO’s “Mildred Pierce”) is an excellent Australian actor, while growling Vincent Regan and menacing, maniacal Joseph Gilgun embody dastardly Scottish brothers who influence the other inmates. Maggie Grace (“Taken”) serves as wisecracking Pearce’s feisty bantering foil but you’d never mistake their cynical one-liners for the witticisms uttered by Bogart and Bacall or Hepburn and Tracy.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Lockout” is a furiously forbidding 4, filled with a great deal of sinister action that makes little sense.