Film Review – Lockout
There is something to be said for a film knowing what is and embracing it. Not every film that is entertaining is necessarily good. From the trailer, that was my immediate impression of what I should expect with Lockout, and for the most part I got what I expected.
The story follows wrongly convicted CIA agent Snow (Guy Pearce) as he is sent on a mission to rescue Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace), the President’s daughter, from an uprising on the prison planet she went to visit as part of a humanitarian mission, while at the same time trying to gather evidence to prove his innocence. It isn’t the most original premise (you can see a lot of similar elements to Escape from New York), but the film fully embraces the over-the-top action premise with a side of campy humor.
Generally, I’m a bit of a Luc Besson apologist. While he is only attached to the film as a writer and executive producer, the production has his fingerprints all over it: an outrageous premise, an anti-hero main character, lots of action, and snappy dialogue. It is fair to say that Luc Besson’s strength is not in his character development; that trend continues in Lockout, as we learn basically nothing about any of the characters involved. None of the relationships are clear, it feels like there is a lot of backstory left out, and the characters’ motivations seem forced. Regardless, I generally find Besson’s films to be entertaining and incredibly easy to digest—the kind of movie you can have on in the background and periodically check in on and totally get what is happening. Additionally, I really like action movies, and while this movie pushes the boundaries of ridiculous, it doesn’t cross it like movies such as G.I. Joe do.
For years I have thought that Guy Pearce is criminally underutilized as an actor. After all, this is the guy same guy who appeared in two of the best films of the late 90’s (LA Confidential and Memento). There is no question he can act, but due to a few misses as a lead it has felt like his window has been closing. I’m glad to see him in this movie, but he is probably the most enjoyable thing in it…by a wide margin. It seems like his opportunities are few and far between. He should be doing more things like Animal Kingdom, but if this is the only way we can get him, I’ll take it. He does an excellent job of taking a generic anti-hero and making him roguishly charming. As good as he is here, though, I don’t see his character having the legacy of someone like Snake Plissken from Escape from New York.
On the flipside, Maggie Grace is at times painful to watch. She has run the gamut in her career from frustrating (Lost) to awkward (Faster) to painful (Taken). This isn’t to say she can’t act, but she usually feels like a square peg trying to be forced into a round hole. I’m still a little perplexed as to why she has been getting as many major roles as she has. You would think a movie like Lockout, which embraces some cheese, would be perfect for her, but it ends up feeling like she is just phoning it in.
Even beyond the acting, the standout problem of the film is the CGI…which can be terrible. There is an opening chase sequence that looks like it was ripped out of a video game from 2002 and sped up by 200%. That is a microcosm of the film in general, as the action for the most part is decent, but occasionally suffers from too many quick cuts. At times it is challenging to discern what exactly is happening and to whom. And as strange as it sounds, I think the film’s structure could’ve benefitted from being even simpler, as there several unnecessary twists that are thrown into the story just to add surprise. We’re talking about a prison planet in space; there is enough craziness around that premise by itself.
I think the saving grace was that I went into Lockout expecting it to be kind of ridiculous. If I had gone into expecting a well-thought-out sci-fi action movie, I would’ve been sorely disappointed. The trailer does a pretty good job of advertising the film for what it is. I’m not particularly a fan of campy humor, though, so there will certainly be people who are entertained by that more than me. Personally, while I enjoyed Guy Pearce enough to get me through it once, I think that is probably the limit for my threshold on this one. I’ll stick to older Luc Besson projects, but I will give credit to the guy for trying.
Final Grade: C+