Here’s a gun. And an apple. And this image is everything you need to know about the fun to be had in Lockout.

It’s sort of hard for me to give Lockout a  positive review given that it is, in many ways, objectively terrible. I suppose there’s something to be said for a B-movie that revels in the fun that may be had, lazy though it is, in B-movie land. And that’s sort of the thing. Lockout is immensely fun, even and sometimes especially when it is also immensely stupid.The first thing to note is that Lockout is basically a hybrid of several movies. These are all wrapped up in its DNA but it wears the face of one in particular: Escape from New York. Underneath that exterior is a bit of Die Hard and a bit of Outland, an 80’s Sean Connery movie about a cop in space. So chances are that you’ve seen some of this sort of thing before and the basic plot and character dynamics will feel familiar. The love story? More or less lifted from Han Solo and Leia in Star Wars. Some people are going to scoff and consider Lockout a rip-off by a couple of first-timers who just wanted to riff on the movies they love. Well, okay, but we give a lot of accolades to filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino who do nothing but that all of the time. Not to say that Lockout is anything like a Tarantino movie in tone or quality, but I do want to say that we can’t hang it out to dry for being intentionally derivative… not when it’s trying to do that in an entertaining way.

The plot is simple: Snow (Guy Pearce) is a master operative for the CIA who has gotten himself in a jam. He’s facing 30 years in an orbital prison which houses the worst of the worst. Langral (Peter Stormare) is the boss of the Secret Service who really has it in for him. Shaw (Lennie James) is the CIA suit (or sweater-vest in this case) who tries to help Snow out with intel about the frame-up and a shot at clearing his name: save the president’s daughter, Emilie (Maggie Grace), who has gotten herself tangled up in a fucking prison riot in fucking space.

Some people won’t be able to get past the basic implausibility of a prison in space, even in far-off 2079, but fuck those people.

For an action movie, Lockout is pretty tame. I’ll tell you now that it was obviously intended to be an R-rated movie but someone decided it should be PG-13 so every bit of violence (pretty much) is tame and toothless. If not for Guy Pearce, this would completely kill the movie. Thanks to him, though, the only action worth anything is the incessant witty patter of Snow and it is completely worthwhile. Snow is a guy who’s clinging to a badass model that is outdated even for us. That means that there’s this weird layering of the effectiveness of the character. In 2079, Snow is even more of a retrograde hero than he would be now (we still remember John McClane and Willis is still milking the franchise that awesome movie sorrowfully became). In 2079, walking around spouting one-liners, taking beatings, and smoking cigarettes (even in space) practically makes Snow a fucking hipster. Thankfully, there’s nothing in the performance or character that suggests Snow is being ironic. It’s his sincerity that makes him awesome.

For all that the movie is pretty dumb and doesn’t really care much about character arcs or, say, logic, they do try and give Snow a bit of an arc. Mostly the work of making you like the character is done in the first 2 minutes of the movie, though, and I think they gambled on that because nothing else is really given much room to breathe. Snow is just a nonstop one-liner machine and even though a lot of them should be cheesy and flat, Pearce sells them all. I can’t underestimate the value he holds for this movie. The whole thing is worth it, whether you like him as an actor or not, for this character and the immense fun he is having. I don’t remember the last time I saw an actor having as much fun in a performance that wasn’t a comedy.

Maggie Grace is a welcome surprise here. She isn’t just a cardboard love interest but a badass in her own right.

So Lockout is essentially a cartoon, if you haven’t picked that up by now.

The bad guys are headed up by a pair of Scottish rogues (Vicent Regan and Joseph Gilgun). They are brothers and one is crazed and wants to kill/rape everything and especially Emilie, the other thinks he’s in control and takes on the more traditional negotiation arrangement with the people in the orbital police station (yes there is one of those).

This being a really low-budget movie, most of the CG is fairly spotty. There’s a sequence earlier in the film that seems semi-lifted from the climax of Torque. But where that film was itself a parody trying to make fun of the super-speed cars of movies like The Fast and the Furious, here the ludicrous speed is a cover for the bad CG. This motorcycle chase probably should have been edited out as it is downright cringe-inducing. Why they chose to bother with something like this is sort of cemented later in the movie, though, as Snow and Emilie jump off the station in space-suits as it nears Earth’s atmosphere. They literally fucking parachute through the upper atmosphere to land gently in a busy intersection in some unnamed East Coast city. This is a moment as gleefully ridiculous as anything in theCrank movies and when it happened, I sorta thought “ah, I see” and understood where co-directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger are coming from.

See, everything is better with crazy Scots. Doomsday proved this.

So come for the 80’s action throwback of the premise and stay for the 80’s action throwback of Guy Pearce’s character. Lockout is no one’s idea of a great or even good movie, but it is a good time at the movies and one that doesn’t sedate you with explosions, slo-mo and product placement like those asinine, terrible movies that one friend of yours insists you’re supposed to “shut your brain off and enjoy”. Lockout is a whole different breed of dumb. It’s smart dumb. It knows it.

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