A frequent criticism of Luc Besson’s writing in Fifth Element (1997) is it’s juvenile narrative. (He did write it in High School.) While the James Mather and Stephen St. Leger written/directed Lockout (2012) is based more on a Luc Besson idea, rather than the bulk of his writing, it could come under similar fire. Still, rather than insult juvenile fiction with Lockout, I am going to say that it unfortunately chooses convenience over cleverness when it comes to plot. What Lockout does have going for it is Guy Pearce, and he makes everything better. (Who else stomached the violence in The Proposition (2005) for Pearce’s sake?)
Guy Pearce is less gaunt and channeling a smart-ass Corbin Dallas as Snow, an ex-CIA operative who is set up, wrongfully accused, and is going to be sent to prison in outer-space. When the President’s daughter (Maggie Grace) is on a humanitarian visit to said prison, an evaluation goes terribly wrong and the prisoner’s take over. A fearless and irreverent Snow is offered his freedom if he will rescue her.
The synopsis makes it sound as straight-forward as it is, except there is this mystery surrounding that fateful set-up and its missing briefcase. In order to build that storyline, Lockout cross-cuts between Snow and Emilie Warnock (Grace) in space. The story-lines meet when Snow is tapped to rescue the hostages. Up until then, the pacing is tricky, some cutting is frenetic, and a chase scene involving Snow is heavy cg (it feels like watching a video game play out). The film levels out and the rescue/escape portion melds reasonably with Snow’s agenda.
I am not especially familiar with the actress Maggie Grace, but she kept up pretty well with Pearce. Her character is sassy and her vulnerabilities (and somewhat heroics) are made comedic; but she isn’t made mindless, and she stays clothed. Joseph Gilgun as Hydell, a seriously disturbed inmate, is terrifying—satisfyingly so. He creates a lot of delicious conflict for the writers to find their way out of. His actions are proper nonsense versus what the governmental entities are or are not able to control by remote and what they feel requires close range fire-fight with the deathstar prison station.
Lockout is an action film with a lot of ambition, and they found most of the cast to pull it off. It had some folly, but it was overall a fun film. Pearce is funny and Grace is a nice foil. The story idea isn’t heinous, and they try to beef up the film with another story-line which tries to complement rather than compete—or at the very least not get in the way. How successful are they? I will let you decide. The effects are hit and miss, as is the pacing and the believability (parachuting? really?). However, for an evening to settle in with pop corn and Guy Pearce, most should find Lockout pretty entertaining.
directed by Stephen St. Leger & James Mather; written by St. Leger, Mather & Luc Besson, based on an idea by Besson; cinematography: Mather; editing: Eamonn Power & Camille Delamarre; music: Alexandre Azaria; exec producer Besson; starring Guy Pearce (Agent Snow), Maggie Grace (Emilie Warnock), Lennie James (Shaw), Joseph Gilgun (Hydell) & Vincent Regan (Alex).
Running time 95 minutes. Rated PG13 for intense sequences of violence, action & language.