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April 17, 2012

There is so much wrong with Lockout that it’s hard to know where to begin. And yet, fully aware of its nature, it somehow manages to be great fun. From a preposterous setup to unbelievably over-the-top acting and through to a train wreck of an ending, neither the action nor the hilarity stops. Sure, it may not be positioned or marketed as a comedy, but in practice this is some seriously funny stuff.

Let’s start with the premise: ex-CIA agent “Snow” (Guy Pearce) must infiltrate a maximum security prison filled with five hundred of the world’s most dangerous Scotsmen criminals. The prison is in the midst of a full-scale riot, led by the murderous Alex (Vincent Regan) and his psychotic, rapist brother, Hydell (Joseph Gilgun). And caught in the center of it all is the president’s daughter (Maggie Grace). Snow doesn’t really want anything to do with it, but he’s strong-armed into it by good cop Shaw (Lennie James) and bad cop Langral (Peter Stormare) after being set up for a murder. Oh, and the prison is — wait for it — In Space.

Written and directed by James Mather and Stephen Saint Leger, it derives ultimately from an original — in a technical sense — concept by Luc Besson, which puts it in a science fiction class with The Fifth Element. That film was also hardly haute cinéma, but something elevated it to be greater than the sum of its parts. Lockout is no greater, but it’s solidly equal to them, which can actually count for a lot. It promises a wild ride without much thinking and it surely delivers on that.

As played by Pearce, Snow embodies the smart-aleck hard-ass archetype. He jokes around at times, but they’re never so much wise-cracks intended to amuse as they are a way of verbally dodging. Still, they’re nicely written and their rapid-fire pace picks up when the action slows down. Stormare and James have a great banter, and neither one acts as if he’s above this sort of thing despite both having plenty of acting chops to go around.

Grace, on the other hand, is a non-entity; this is absolutely a testosterone-soaked guy movie, and she’s really only there to be in trouble, look pretty, and provide a moral compass, in roughly that order. It’s sort of a shame that Besson couldn’t even insist on his usual “strong female character”, as clichéed as she is.

Nothing in this movie makes a damn bit of sense. We’ve got smoking and gunfire on a space station; we’ve got a space station positioned in a decaying orbit just to add another redundant time pressure; we’ve got ridiculous security logistics on a space station. Oh yeah, and we’ve got a freaking maximum security prison on a freaking space station for no good reason. Even the reason offered for the prison’s existence — keeping the prisoners in stasis — doesn’t rely on them being in space. It’s a giant, chaotic mess, and I loved every popcorny minute of it.

Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: big fail.

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