I was interested in this sci-fi action flick from the minute it turned up on the cinematic radar, for several reasons. For starters, there’s been a near criminal lack of decent outer space-themed science fiction lately. Then there’s Luc Besson, the producer and co-writer of this one. I’ve enjoyed, in one way or another, virtually everything that the man has laid his creative hands on. And there’s Guy Pearce, who you may have gathered from previous reviews is an actor I enjoy and respect. So…now having seen it…the Big Question: Did it live up to expectations? To be totally honest…yes, it did. It wound up being exactly what I hoped it would be, which was essentially a fun Die Hard/Under Siege clone…in orbit. The legitimate comparisons to those particular flicks are numerous. Ordinarily, I’d be tempted to scream ‘Plagarism!’…but this plays like a winking homage…and plays it well. The story is as follows: A surly, wise-cracking secret operative named Snow is framed for an espionage-related murder (that he didn’t commit) and is sentenced to 30 years in stasis on MS One; a maximum security prison orbiting our planet. As he is being prepped for transport on Earth, a violent jail break occurs in the skies above…naturally resulting in a couple hundred hardened convicts running amok. Among the inevitable hostages is the smoking hot First Daughter Emilie, played by Maggie Grace (Taken). Snow is determined, by his captors, to be The Only Man Who Can Get The Job Done and is given the usual ultimatum. Rescue the chick…or else. Snow, having his own, alterior motive, grudgingly agrees. And…cue the fireworks and wise-cracks. This flick is largely Pearces show and he does a great job making what could simply be a copy of John McClane, Casey Rybeck or Snake Plissken and splashing in a dose of his own ‘take’. His dry, smirking quips are mostly funny and well-timed and a good chunk of his chemistry with Maggie Grace crackles. Sure…not all the jokes take to the skies but enough do. As do the action scenes. Many are quick, rough and loud, often involving a cool set piece (cavernous gravity room, sinister lab, trashed hotel room etc). The gore in Lockout is pretty tame…which seemed a little strange considering that I saw the UNRATED version! A little more sprayed crimson (a la Die Hard) would’ve been nice…but what was presented worked. A couple things, however, did not work. There was a sequence near the beginning that involved a high speed vehicle chase on a futuristic highway that just looked like cheap crap. It felt sped up in order to help mask the less-than-stellar effects…and they WERE less-than-stellar. There was also a sequence in the 3rd Act involving two characters, space suits, a massive explosion, high speed falling (in space?), a fiery re-entry burn…and NO FRIGGIN DEATH!! I physically rolled my eyes at THAT one. Not that one of this movies merits is ‘realism’…but c’mon! Coming back to the ‘good’ though, I ‘liked’ the two main villains. They were a pair of Scottish (?) brothers and they were truly despicable pieces of shit, the younger one especially, with his wiry junkie frame, cataract’d eyeball and twitchy psycho manner. He reminded me of a rabid alley mutt and nicely exuded an aura of unbalanced menace. Aside from the two leads and the two villains, the other noticeable thespian was the awesome Peter Stormare (Constantine) as the Head of the Secret Service and the one with his hand on Snows leash. Stormare is well on his way to becoming the Swedish Christopher Walken…and it’s great. And most of Lockout is great…at being simply what it is. What it ‘is’, is a loving ‘throw back’ to the ‘Die Hard on a….!’ movies of the late 80s/early 90s and on THAT level, it works nicely. Honestly though, if Guy Pearce clearly hadn’t had such an obviously good time playing his capable asshole character…or hadn’t played Snow at all…this flick would’ve been knocked back a couple of pegs. But as it is, it’s a fun, sci-fi action ride that flips most of the right switches as a burning re-entry into the particular genre.
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