Lockout: Sci-Fi Actioner, Starring Guy Pearce

Every element in the “new” sci-fi actioner Lockout is second-hand and cheesy, from the generic title to the formulaic plot to the stiff acting to the technical execution.

For those who claim that the B-picture is not made anymore, “Lockout” offers primal proof that the B-picture (in both sense of the term, the budgetary and the artistic) is alive and well—internationally, if not domestically.

The movie is a product of a committee, in this case a Gallic one, headed by director Luc Besson (who gets credits for “original” story and co-scribe) and the two scribe-helmers, Stephen Saint Leger and James Mather.

The trio of filmmakers must have watched a lot of “prison, escape and chase” Hollywood movies, for if you dissect the flimsy, haphazard story, you will detect ideas and characters from John Carpenter’s “Escape from New York,” both the original and its pale imitations, mixed with some elements of Besson’s “The Fifth Element.” End result is a pastiche of a movie that borrows and lifts freely from the vocabularies of its genres.

That said, the filmmakers deserve credit for making an unabashedly simplistic, unpretentious flick, which offers cheap frills and thrills to young, undiscriminating, and as will make quick cash in the opening weekend in its wide play-out.

The only A element in this picture is the stature, if not performance, of Guy Pearce, who could have played in his sleep his role with its throwaway, ultra-cynical, semi-witty lines. (More about Pearce later).

We don’t expect actioners to be original anymore, but “Lockout” is such a mishmash of a movie, such a hodgepodge of plotting that it may not even merit the description of being derivative.

Set in 2079, the tale centers on Pearce as a hard-boiled former CIA operative named Snow, who, in the first scene, is smacked in the face.  Accused of murdering his old partner, he is thrown into a maximum security jail called MS-1 in the name of national safety.

Things change when Snow meets Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace), a femme who investigates inmate abuse aboard MS One.  I don’t wish to spoil the little fun the picture offers by revealing how Emilie causes a prisoner uprising, but she does.  Then, it “just happens” that our woman is well connected to the high echelons–she is the daughter of the U.S. President.

Secret Service agent Shaw (Lennie James), defying the wishes of his ruthless peer Langral (Peter Stormare), asks Snow to rescue the prexy’s daughter, an offer the latter cannot refuse for reasons that can’t be disclosed here.

The two villains, played by Vincent Regan and Joseph Gilgun, as his sociopath brother, are just as unmemorable and one-dimensional as the rest of the characters, of which there are very few.

Relating to the text as a 90-minute video game, the filmmakers then proceed to execute their saga a cold, detached, calculated and impersonal approach.

 

Guy Pearce is sort of a modern Snake Plissken (the character played by Kurt Russell in “Escape from New York”), except he’s made to sound wittier and thus we are subjected to some nasty one-liners.

 

Pearce is a very good and versatile actor, who, for some reason, has never become a star, or a major player after his bravura turn in Chris Nolan’s 2000 “Memento.”  Over the years, he has contributed to large ensembles and estimable features on both the small screen (most recently in “Mildred Pierce”) and the big screen (the superb L.A. Confidential”).  In “Lockout” he gets to play the leading role, but his performance is contained in such a poor picture that you sigh with relief when it’s over.

 

Cast

Snow – Guy Pearce
Emilie Warnock – Maggie Grace
Alex – Vincent Regan
Hydell – Joseph Gilgun
Shaw – Lennie James
Langral – Peter Stormare

 

Credits

MPAA Rating: PG-13.

Running time: 95 Minutes