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Lockout (Frank's take)

01/05/2012. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

Buy Lockout in the USA - or Buy Lockout in the UK

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The sci-fi futuristic fable Lockout is a sluggish slapdish of a space thriller that sputters about without an original bone in its bloated body. Bogged down by shoddy writing, weak-kneed acting, recycled special effects, choppy editing, indistinguishable lighting, a cascade of clichés and a familiar blueprint borrowed from a number of past movies catering to the genre, Lockout is an uninvolving actioner that wallows in its derivative dribble.

It is incredible that the hampered Lockout had a powerful wattage of contributors behind its lacklustre label. This Luc Besson-produced B-movie by-product was co-directed and co-written by filmmakers James Mather and Stephen St. Leger with Besson scoring a writing credit as well. Although there are intermittent worthy action sequences and glimpses of snappy dialogue, the grittiness and gumption behind Lockout feels somewhat stilted. From brooding star Guy Pearce overseeing the flaccid festivities to the sinister personalities taking shameless turns mugging for the camera as they chew up the scenery Lockout is destined to be another big-budgeted slight space yarn.

Anybody inclined to compare Lockout’s similar premise to 1981’s classic cheesefest Escape from New York would not be out of line to do so. The year is 2079 as we find our flippant anti-hero Agent Snow (Guy Pearce) in need of some serious redemption. The disgraced Snow, a chain-smoking ex CIA operative, finds himself in a deep dilemma as he is framed for a bad rap. As a result, Snow is being shipped to the “MS One” (Maximum Security One prison) in outer space. The prospect of heading to MS One does not look promising as the hardcore prisoners are subject to “guinea pig-style” experimentation where they are put in a treacherous sleepy state (“stasis”) as a sinister way of serving their sentences.

Luckily for the endangered Snow he can show contrition and save his skin when he is tapped into action as a one-man wrecking crew sent on a crucial mission. The tricky task at hand: Snow must retrieve the President of the United States’ daughter Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace) from her captives at the MS One facility. Apparently Emilie was on a fact-finding mission at the prison regarding the rumours of the inhumane sleep-inducing treatments done on the jailed convicts. Now Emilie is at the mercy of these same vicious and desperate souls rioting in the midst of a prisoner revolt.

So the wise-cracking and cryptic Snow is off to the perimeters of space to save the vulnerable Emile from the clutches of the caged riff raff holding her hostage for their twisted cause. After all, Snow’s freedom is riding on the successful results of apprehending the President’s imperiled offspring. The obvious question remains: can the glib Snow get to Emilie before the inmates do any considerable harm to her?

We are to believe that the futuristic surroundings in Lockout are so grounded in a cynical and chaotic society that security maximum prisons are located in deep space and the President’s Oval Office is in an unknown underground venue. The movie does a reasonable job in conveying a queasy and sleazy atmospheric realm but sometimes the overindulgent murkiness overshadows the conventional confines of the story.

Occasionally intriguing, Lockout becomes rather tedious in its rudimentary efforts to showcase the fleeing Pearce and Grace running for cover in favour of avoiding the caustic inmates as they eagerly search for an escape route to dodge the ongoing madness. As a sarcastic action hero hired into service en route to redeeming his credibility, Pearce is mildly amusing but not distinctive enough to separate him as a poor man’s Snake Pissken from the aforementioned Escape from New York. Grace is not very memorable as the damsel in distress. The one-liners and carefree banter feels forced at times despite a few quotable ditties here and there. There is, however, a passable turn by Vincent Regan as the articulate rabble-rousing inmate leader. Joseph Gilgun shines frequently as a wired-up prison punk with notorious vibes.

In short, Lockout is another claustrophobic caper that never manages to capture the rapier wit or sardonic surrealism it purports to display in this thinly-veiled thriller. It is too bad that the catatonic Lockout does not have that polished “let’s take prisoners” vitality—a sentiment that ironically reflects the feeble foundation of this anaemic prison break flick.

Lockout (2012) FilmDistrict
1 hr. 50 mins.
Starring: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Vincent Regan, Lennie James, Joe Gilgun, Peter Stormare
Directed by: James Mather, Stephen St. Leger
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy Action Adventure
Critic’s Rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars).

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