Movie Review 16/4/12
Starring: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Peter Stormare
Directed by: James Mather and Stephen St. Leger
Looking at today’s crop of action movies, it’s easy to become sentimental and nostalgic about the good old days of macho one-man-army action heroes with bulging biceps and even bigger guns, delivering headshots one second and corny, quotable one-liners the next. For fans of the era, especially those who grew up on such movies, Lockout is one such wonderful blast to the past.
Sure, this sci-fi actioner is set in 2097, but boy does it feel old school. Just look at the plot: ex-CIA agent Snow (Pearce) has been framed for the murder of a former colleague. Secret Service chief Scott Langral (Stormare) gives him one chance at redemption: rescue Emilie Warnock (Grace), daughter of the President of the United States (Peter Hudson). She just happens to be stuck on MS-One, a super maximum security prison complex in orbit around the earth – and the 500 psychopaths once peacefully stored in stasis have taken over.
Are you having flashbacks of Escape from New York and (perhaps even more so) its sequel Escape from L.A.? Lockout brings to mind a whole bunch of other sci-fi/action/both cult classics too, with its future-Chinatown right out of Blade Runner, Battlestar Galactica-style space fighter planes, Die Hard-esque scenario and “gyrocycles” that look suspiciously like Tron’s lightcycles. It’s okay if you aren’t original, as long as you make something out of all the borrowed parts that is entertaining – and boy, if this isn’t entertaining, I don’t know what is.
From start to finish, this is a breathlessly rollicking ride. The action is wham-bam, non-stop and unrelenting, yet somehow coherent and enjoyable. Guy Pearce’s Snow is as old-fashioned as action heroes get. He displays the right mix of cocky self-assurance, badass physicality and comic timing to pull off what is essentially a homage to the days of Schwarzenegger and Van Damme, albeit with better English, and acting. His every other line is a witticism of some kind, and some are pretty good - turning a good portion of the film into a genuine laugh-riot.
Maggie Grace, known for her appearance in the earlier Luc Besson-produced Taken is at first glance your typical First Daughter, but successfully toes the line between damsel-in-distress and Ripley-style action heroine (her prowess with a gun leads Snow to quip “and I thought you were a Democrat!”) and has a nice back-and-forth banter with her leading man, and the film doesn’t resort to a romantic plot tumour.
The films lead villains, a pair of Scottish thug brothers, don’t actually do a lot during the film, but are plenty scary as is – especially Joseph Gilgun as the chaotically-deranged Hydell. Peter Stormare is one of those actors who can lend gravitas to proceedings just by standing around and is content with appearing in B-grade-or-lower genre pictures, which helps.
A large part of the movie’s success has to do with MS-One being a convincing location, and the audience is effectively sucked in and feels trapped on the space prison with Snow and Emilie. The movie is heavily reliant on CGI and yes, the visuals aren’t as convincing as we’re used to and sometimes the reliance on the technology borders on egregious, but then again we’ve been spoilt by the likes of Avatar (this movie somehow works in the line “I see you”) and Transformers, and this film was made for a fraction of the budget of either.
Ultimately, that’s the core strength of this flick – it makes no bones about being a B-movie, and it’s refreshing to see a quality action film that isn’t overly processed and packaged. In not taking itself too seriously, it is strangely honest despite “stealing” from many other films. There’s an unpolished rough-around-the-edges charm, and once this is understood it is very easy to totally go along for the ride.
SUMMARY: (Lock)out with the new, and back in with the old – relive the heyday of the mid-budget sci-fi actioner, complete with space fighter planes.
RATING: 3.5/5 STARS