Luc Besson’s name is all over the marketing for Lockout, the new sci-fi action thriller directed by James Mather and Stephen St. Leger. From a publicity standpoint, it makes sense. Besson’s films are always entertaining, and his better ones invariably become cult classics.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that Besson both co-wrote and produced Lockout, the film just doesn’t live up to its billing.
Guy Pearce stars as Snow, a former CIA agent convicted of murder and sentenced to 30 years in stasis aboard an experimental orbital prison. At the same time, the President’s daughter, Emily (Maggie Grace) arrives at the prison for an informal inspection. When things go wrong and the inmates take over the prison, Snow is offered a chance at redemption if he agrees to go in and rescue Emily before she gets killed.
It’s a pretty good concept despite some similarities to Escape From New York, but the execution is poor. It starts incredibly well, showing off the film’s sense of humor and a surprising amount of charisma from Pearce. The always-sarcastic-and-egotistical schtick, however, wears thin after about 15-20 minutes and we’re left with a surprisingly unsatisfying action picture.
The set pieces are surprisingly tame and altogether underwhelming, an issue that may be somewhat alleviated by the “Rated-R” version of the film that was released in other countries, including Canada.
The action is further hindered by extremely below average visual effects which only make it harder to take it seriously. There are a couple of effects near the beginning that are so bad that they pull the viewer completely out of the movie, something unforgivable in a modern action film.
Grace is adequate as Emily, a typical more-than-she-seems-to-be damsel in distress. Her interactions with Snow are decent, but again, tame. The dialogue is ok at times, awful at others. The conflict and tension between Emily and Snow is often manufactured and rarely makes sense and each situation exists solely to service another scene later. There is no rhyme or reason to a lot of what goes on, which would be less noticeable in a film with more intriguing action.
The film’s supporting characters, including the inmates, are given no development, so even though the performances are fine, they lack depth.
In fairness, the film makers do get a few points for tossing in a couple of curveballs that actually make sense and don’t seem out of left field, but in the end, the lack of interesting set pieces makes the film’s other flaws stand out even more. Lockout had a lot of promise, but fails to follow through on almost any of it.