In the wake of Die Hard’s incredible success in the late 80’s, there followed a slew of copycat action movies which could easily be described simply by using the phrase ‘Die Hard in/on a’. So Sudden Death is ‘Die Hard in a Hockey Stadium’, Cliffhanger is ‘Die Hard on a Mountain’ and Under Siege 1 and 2 are ‘Die Hard on a…….Warship/Train’ respectively. Basically it can be used for any movie where a group of bad guys take over something and then unbeknownst to them a lone hero takes it upon himself to save the day. So overused is the phrase now though, some may argue it would merely be lazy criticism to use it, but that’s never stopped me before. Besides, in the case of Lockout, Die Hard on a Space Prison could really not be more accurate.
Guy Pearce is on board as CIA Agent Snow, our de facto John McClane of 2079. All the traits are there, he doesn’t see eye-to-eye with his bosses, he smokes, he wisecracks (oh he wisecracks a lot) but most of all, by god, he gets results.
After being wrongly accused of murdering a fellow agent, Snow is all set for a long stretch behind bars. However, after the President’s daughter Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace aka Liam Neeson’s daughter in Taken) pays a visit to a tough space prison orbiting earth and it gets taken over by the inmates, Snow is offered a deal, get Emilie out, and he will gain his freedom. At first he is understandably reluctant to infiltrate a space station filled with rampaging homicidal murderers and rapists, but after learning that a former partner may be aboard who may possess evidence which proves his innocence, Snow reluctantly agrees. Once on the prison, Snow must stay out of sight and keep Emilie safe from the hoard of bloodthirsty prisoners led by two mental Scottish brothers.
Assuming it isn’t painfully obvious already, it should be made clear here that this is not a film which takes itself too seriously. Co-written and produced by Luc Besson, but directed by newbies James Mather and Stephen St. Ledger, the film seems to play up to his clichés and almost embrace them which, for me, places Lockout firmly in the ‘brainless fun’ category. It’s absolutely ridiculous in parts; two people skydiving from a space station and landing safely back on terra firma being just one example. Even the plot itself sounds like a McBain movie from The Simpsons, a wrongly accused CIA operative goes to SPACE PRISON…..that’s SPACE PRISON…..to save the President’s daughter who was there on a fact finding mission. As if sending the President’s daughter to a Space Prison wasn’t a silly enough set up for a plot to begin with, the decision to release one of the most dangerous prisoners from stasis so that she might speak with him, and then to let an armed man into the room to guard him…..is frankly ludicrous.
Maggie Grace doesn’t really excel in her role, but she really isn’t given much to go on. She wimpers and/or pouts when required, but mostly she is there to give Snow someone to snark at. Snow himself is basically the action hero you’d create if you were asked as a teenager to create a generic ‘badass’ after watching Escape From New York and Die Hard. Every line is a wisecrack and no matter what happens, he’s always one step ahead. Make no mistake, in a lesser actor’s hands; this character would simply be a painful caricature. Luckily, Pearce has the necessary charisma and chutzpa to carry it off and keep things just about the right side of that fine cool/grating line.
Despite all its flaws, of which there are many, Lockout is surprisingly enjoyable. This is mainly due to Pearce’s considerable screen presence, and luckily he does just enough to elevate the film to the dizzy heights of ‘watchable’. It’s not going to be to everybody’s tastes, but if you like OTT action movies you will find something to enjoy. It’s not breaking any new ground, and if made about 25 years ago, this film would star Steven Segal and involve a former Baywatch babe in some way, but if you are looking for a movie to just sit back and switch off to, you could do a lot worse.
Lockout is released on DVD & blu-ray 20th August 2012.
Directors: James Mather, Stephen St. Leger
Stars: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Peter Stormare, Vincent Regan
Runtime: 95 min