– Summary –
Director : James Mather & Stephen St Leger
Year Of Release : 2012
Principal Cast : Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Peter Stormare, Lennie James, Vincent Regan, Joseph Gilgun, Tim Plester, Jacky Ido, Peter Hudson, Mark Tankersley.
Approx Running Time : 95 Minutes
Synopsis: When the President’s daughter becomes trapped about an orbiting maximum security prison station, the Secret Service send one man in to save her.
What we think : Dynamite B-movie that rocks, rolls and slaps you about the face just the way you like it – Lockout is a blast. Guy Pearce provides humor and sarcasm as the “action hero” character, Maggie Grace the insouciance of authority, and Joseph Gilgun as one of the best (and nuttiest!) screen villains to come our way in a long time: Lockout delivers dynamite action, some solid CGI effects, a ripping script and enough smarts to ensure it never outstays its welcome.
Just reading the synopsis on this review will put people off. Lockout, produced by Luc Besson (which is no certainty of quality, really) typifies the B-movie aesthetic: an enclosed location, plenty of guns, a sexy woman and a chiseled, square-jawed hero, some explosions and no doubt a smorgasbord of death and destruction. Yep, Lockout delivers on all fronts. Instead of being a waste of time, however, Lockout actually manages to be something I wasn’t expecting to get: a damn fine action movie. It’s not a cerebral affair, nor does the film try and deliver some kind of moral or ethical message to the audience. No, this film just racks up the cliches and lets fly at them from every angle, delivering a punchy, hilariously great time at the movies. You’ll go a long way to find a film that delivers more laughs and action per minute than Mather & St Leger’s sci-fi slobberknocker.
In 2079, the United States has built a maximum security prison, known as the MX1, in the most isolated environment known to man – outer space. There, a trial is underway of 500 prisoners to determine if the stasis they’re placed into for their sentence is a humane, legitimate form of incarceration. The daughter of the American President (Peter Hudson), Emilie (Maggie Grace) is on a humanitarian fact-finding mission to interview inmates about their experiences. However, when one of the inmates attacks a guard and steals a weapon, the prison goes into lockdown, with the ensuing revolt led by Alex (Vincent Regan) and his utterly insane brother Hydell (Joseph Gilgun). The secret service, led by Director Scott Langral (Peter Stormare) and CIA Agent Harry Shaw (Lennie James), take charge of the operation to rescue Emilie from the prison, and they decide to do the one thing the inmates will never suspect: send in one man. That man is Snow (Guy Pearce), a former CIA operative who has been charged with espionage against the United States – a charge he denies. He’s a cocky, arrogant, sarcastic bastard, is Snow, and he’s also the perfect one to send on what could be a suicide mission. Snow takes the job, if only to clear his name and recover a stolen briefcase hidden away by his partner, Mace (Tim Plester), before his own imprisonment on the MX1.
No, the story isn’t new – it feels like a slicked-up version of Escape From LA – but the turd has been polished to a bright, gleaming freshness that permeates the screen. Lockout rattles along with a fast paced script, deft direction for duo James Mather and Stephen St Leger, and a sense of fun that’s quite infectious. The plot is as contrived as they come, but instead of rolling your eyes and praying for some respite from the generic characters and motivations, Lockout comes off as a whole lot of nonsense that’s great to watch. Instead of taking itself seriously, Lockout plays more like a tip-of-the-hat to the kind of B-movies this film stands on the shoulders of. It’s a tacit homage, I think, by Mather and St Leger, along with producer/co-scripter Luc Besson (yes, he from The Fifth Element days) to the glory of the big-budget B-movie, and if you watch it with that mindset, you’ll have a ball.
The cast are all uniformly great, even if their characters aren’t. Guy Pearce steals every scene he’s in with a razor-sharp sense of humor and deadpan delivery, providing me with many laughs throughout the film. His chemistry with co-star Maggie Grace, herself no stranger to damsel in distress movies (Taken, Taken 2) is wicked fun, and you can see the pair of them having a blast delivering their withering put-downs and insults. Grace, more than anyone else in the film, has the meatiest character to work with; Pearce’s Snow is a typical action hero clone, with square jaw, rippling muscles, a disdain for authority and inevitably the charm to get the girl (I mean, it’s Guy f@cking Pearce!), and although he provides much of the motivation for the plot to develop, as a character he’s limited to the extreme. Based on this performance, I’m sticking my hand up for Pearce to play more action-hero roles, because he seems to get what that kind of role is all about. Lennie James and Peter Stormare have a great time as the two Government Authority Figures tasked with curbing the insurrection and rescuing the First Daughter, ripping into each other verbally as the intellectual sparring happens away from the main action. Of special mention too, is Joseph Gilgun as the utterly mad Hydell, in a performance so creepy, so potent as a character, it’s chilling to watch him work. Apparently, Gilgun took his inspiration from Robert Carlysle’s work in Trainspotting – you can really tell the influences here – and as a screen villain, he’s the one you should check out. Nuttier than gay porn, I think.
The characters live and die by the quality of the script, and Lockout’s script is a belter. It’s not the smartest piece of literature, but what it does do is deliver laughs and action in equal amounts for almost the entire running time of the movie. There’s a levity to everything that’s happening which infects the entire movie; it’s all played with a wink and a nudge, with everyone on-screen seemingly aware of the joke. It moves at a rapid pace, never letting up for the typical pause before another action scene: I really thought Lockout stayed on-course, kept itself mean and lean, and delivered exactly the type of film you’d expect with title like “Lockout”. The script allows for a number of sub-plots to bubble along behind the main action, and although those subplots are never allowed to directly interfere with the main story, they add significant counterbalance to all the posturing, murder and violent fun. Overall, a razor sharp script, delivered with panache by two directors with a definite visual style.
Lockout is also pleasing to the eye visually. While some of the early effects in the film (I’m speaking of a freeway chase between Snow and the CIA pursuing him) come off as bargain-basement quality, the majority are perfectly acceptable as far as this kind of lowbrow film go. I wasn’t expecting Avatar material, here, and I certainly didn’t get it, but for the rough-n-ready crowd just itching to see a fast paced battle sequence or dogfight in space, this will service your needs without extravagance. The set design, reminiscent of any number of other sci-fi shows (the film’s set in a spaceship, there’s only so many variations on bulkheads, corridors and ventilation shafts humans can come up with) is perfunctory and functional. It’s a prison, obviously, so the lack of frills and flowers isn’t unexpected. The gritty urban tone of the movie, lensed with clarity and precision by director-come-DP James Mather, really give you the sense that there’s a lot of sweat, grime and muck even up there in space. Alexandre Azaria’s genre score is pounding and apropos, but hardly memorable – it gets the job done, however, and that’s good enough for me.
I wanted to find something to criticize about Lockout, but I couldn’t find anything to really mention. If anything, the lack of resolution for the inevitable demise of the Bad Guys is a minor failing, considering all of Gilgun’s work setting his character up as that bug you just can’t squash – his death isn’t even seen, it’s off-screen – so I guess if I had any criticism of the film that would be it. It’s a small thing, and in the grand scheme of this film’s sheer hutzpah in being made I’m hardly going to run screaming into the street to proclaim it. I will proclaim that Lockout is a cheesy, infectious, loudly wry, incredibly funny film (no it’s not a comedy, but there’s plenty of laughs in it) movie that took me by complete surprise. Effective, solid casting and production design gives Lockout a pedigree for other aspiring filmmakers to look up to. Lockout is a rollicking good time at the movies.