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3 reviews, 3 user ratings

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by Brett Gallman

"Escape from space."
3 stars

The first good joke in “Lockout” comes when its opening credits insist it’s based upon an original idea by Luc Besson.

Anyone who has even seen a TV spot in passing and has gathered its plot--a convict (Guy Pearce) is given the task to enter an impenetrable prison to rescue the president’s daughter (Maggie Grace)--should recognize that’s riffing on John Carpenter’s “Escape” movies (both of which were just post-apocalyptic updates of western rescue films anyway). The only big difference here is that Besson and company also resort to a typical sort of bottom-of-the-barrel creative decision by blasting it all into space (which, ironically enough, is exactly what Carpenter would have done with “Escape from Earth”).

It’s also not as streamlined as Carpenter’s film, and I kind of hated it for this early on; it’s not enough that Pearce’s agent Snow just be an enigmatic badass like the more economically-sketched Snake Plissken (it takes you all of two minutes to get who Snake is), so we’re treated to a big, blurry, and nigh-incoherent action sequence to show us how he’s landed himself a one-way ticket to this space prison as a future resident. He’s had a mission gone wrong--it involves state secrets and traitors and who the hell cares? Just shoot him to space so he can start shooting bad guys and trading risqué dialogue with the president’s attractive daughter, right?

Sort of--there’s actually a lot of plot that gets stuffed into this silly movie about a space prison, and all of the pieces manage to absurdly fall into place to the point where I found myself having a good time with a movie featuring the dynamic duo of Guy Pearce and…Maggie Grace? Sure, why not. Maybe Luc Besson having Grace kidnapped is like the Rosetta Stone that unlocks perfectly serviceable and dumb action movies.

Pearce is the star though, and he’s not so much Snake Plissken as he is Jack Burton--swaggering, wisecracking, and with no time for Grace’s bleeding heart bullshit. “Action star” isn’t something you’ll see on Pearce’s resume, but he slides into the role convincingly and exudes wit, charisma and a roguish charm. He’s exactly the type of guy you’d want to rescue your daughter--until he actually rescued her.

And, unlike Kurt Russell’s doofus from “Big Trouble in Little China,” his Snow knows what he’s doing, though you’ll be hard pressed to actually see a lot of the stuff he does. He pulls off a neat trick with a hotel room bed and a gun that would be more impressive if co-directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger had any eyes for fluent action. Instead, “Lockout” is a clumsy, choppy affair that clangs and clunks even during its zero-gravity fights and motorcycle chases. Their opting for a more visceral approach probably played better in the other cut of the film that didn’t make it to theaters--the one that’s rated R and is full of exploding heads and dismembered bodies that get cut away from just in time here to secure a PG-13. “Lockout” isn’t aided by its vaguely post-apocalyptic vision of 2079 where America has apparently been swallowed by a vacuum cleaner bag that’s full of dust and dirt, so everything is dim, grungy, and generally unpleasant looking. It’s a dirty, nasty little film, so polishing away the real violence is obviously at odds with the aesthetic.

But the film moves pretty well and escalates smoothly enough to constantly put our leads into peril. “Lockout” feels like the type of movie you’d watch in pieces whenever you stumble across it on cable since Pearce and Grace make it easily watchable. You kind of wish they were in a better movie at times, especially one that could match them up against some more memorable villains (Vincent Regan and Joseph Gilgun play a couple of one-note, thickly-accented bores here). However, as the credits began to roll, I realized that I’d watch the further adventures of this unexpectedly fun pair, so “Lockout” must pass some sort of litmus test.

Derivative and ludicrous, "Lockout" aims to remind us of John Carpenter, but it never comes close to reaching the heights of "Escape from New York." It can't even approach the paroxysmal lunacy of the delightfully loony "Escape from L.A." It does, however, do a mean impression of "Ghosts of Mars," so take that how you will.

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originally posted: 04/17/12 15:03:48
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User Comments

4/01/16 Aj wales Never boring. Just enjoy. 5 stars
10/06/12 KingNeutron I give it 3.5 *'s, it was obviously rushed - but enjoyable popcorn movie. 3 stars
4/17/12 Aaron S Fun film. Guy Pearce is worth it. Not too serious. 4 stars
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  13-Apr-2012 (PG-13)
  DVD: 17-Jul-2012


  DVD: 17-Jul-2012

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