The French release movie poster in honour of Luc Besson
“I heard you were dead Snake.” ….. “Yeah, I get that a lot”
That classic line from Escape from New York really sums up Lockout. I had a spare two hours early this morning and I had gotten Lockout a few of weeks ago so I thought I would give it a watch. Is it a bad film? No. Is it a good film. Not really. Is it fun? Well yes. Let me elaborate.
Luc Besson is a great director who has made some awesome films (I am thinking Fifth Element especially) but I was surprised when I picked this film up and saw that what I assumed was a B-Movie was directed by him. I was swayed already to give this near future movie a punt as I like Guy Pearce (Time Machine especially) and also Edward Jackson had said to me he liked it. But when I saw the directors name that sold it. I watched it without reading any reviews (something I have taken to doing to avoid being prejudice towards a film), but I will give you the plot first before moving on to my opinion on Lockout.
In 2079, CIA agent Snow (Guy Pearce) is arrested for the murder of undercover agent Frank Armstrong who had uncovered evidence of an agent selling state secrets about the space program. Secret Service director Scott Langral (Peter Stormare) threatens to have Snow incarcerated on the maximum security space penitentiary MS One where prisoners are kept in stasis for their sentence. Snow’s agent friend Harry Shaw (Lennie James) tries to locate Snow’s contact Mace who knows where Frank’s briefcase containing the secret information is hidden.
Meanwhile, Emilie Warnock, (Maggie Grace) daughter of US President Warnock, arrives at MS One to investigate claims that stasis might affect prisoners’ minds, leading to psychopathy and dementia. Hydell, a prisoner, is awakened for questioning, but manages to escape. He releases all of the prisoners and starts a riot, led by his brother Alex. Emilie and others are captured. Shaw convinces Langral to send Snow to rescue Emilie rather than risk her life in a siege. Snow is initially reluctant, but agrees after Shaw tells him that Mace is on MS One, and could help Snow prove his innocence. Snow secretly infiltrates MS One. Alex realizes Emilie is the President’s daughter and goes to secure her. Emilie manages to escape with her bodyguard Hock and hide in a secure room. A problem with the oxygen supply however causes Hock to commit suicide to give Emilie more time.
Snow breaks into the room and rescues Emilie. Snow changes Emilie’s hair to conceal her gender and appearance after the prison is alerted to her true identity, allowing them to walk through the prison population. They find Mace, but the stasis has given him dementia and made him incoherent. Snow and Emilie bring Mace with them as they attempt to reach the escape pod. Without the maintenance of the staff, the prison has begun to fall out of its orbit and crashes into the International Space Station. The collision causes a breach and Mace is killed. Snow brings Emilie to the pod but discovers it has only one seat, and that he has been sent there to die. He sends Emilie on her way, but she allows the pod to launch without her, believing that the remaining hostages will be otherwise killed. Hydell contacts Emilie and threatens the hostages unless she reveals her location. When she does so, he kills all of the hostages.
As Snow and Emilie flee, they discover evidence that the prisoners were being illegally used as test subjects. Alex finds the pair and captures Emilie after shooting Snow and leaving him for dead. When Alex learns that Hydell has killed all of the hostages, he beats Hydell and contacts the President threatening to allow Hydell and the prison population to rape Emilie if they are not released. The President refuses to allow a siege and risk Emilie, causing Langral to temporarily relieve him of his command. Langral orders the destruction of MS One. Hydell tries to rape Emilie as promised, but is stopped by Alex. Infuriated he stabs Alex to death. Emilie fights back and Hydell attempts to stab her, but he is incapacitated by Snow. Snow and Emilie flee from the prisoners and Hydell. Meanwhile Langral’s men plant a bomb on the prison. Snow and Emilie use space suits and jump from the ship as it detonates, destroying the prison. The suits allow the pair to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and land safely in New York City.
Snow is arrested. Emilie later realizes that Mace’s seemingly incoherent rambling was the location of and password needed to access Frank’s briefcase. Armed with the briefcase, Snow meets with Shaw. Shaw immediately unlocks it to see the evidence, but finds it empty. Snow notes that he had not given the unlock code to Shaw, and Shaw is revealed as the mole and arrested. Snow is released and his possessions returned, including a lighter given to him by Frank before his death. Snow finds a memory card containing the real secret information hidden within it. Emilie meets Snow and teases him, having learned his first name is Marion. The pair walk away together.
Lockout is a total B-Movie and it shows. But its a roaring action adventure and a laugh too. Its been panned by critics and it really went straight to DVD but I liked it. Agent Snow simply WANTS to be Snake Plissken and takes on the same mantle that in the 1980’s all action heroes had. Gruff, sarcastic, violent and full of one liners while smoking (when was the last time you saw that in a new movie!) Snow tries his best to channel Snake but never manages it. Like the shade of a long dead hero he rattles along well enough dispatching the bad guys but never really clicking into place. Not a reflection of Guy Pearce, he is a fine actor, but more on the movie itself. Its brainless and lazily directed, it lacks pace and its set pieces are weak as dish water. Luc Besson either does not care or did this on purpose (why, don’t ask me!). When Pierce is not on screen the film drops several notches which tells you its a weak movie. Some of the CGI effects are appallingly bad in places as well.
But! Its well worth watching and it is free of all the crap that plagues a lot of genre films now. This movie is out of place in the 21st century, it should be in the 1980’s. If you want a popcorn film for a weekend that is alpha male to the hilt with a dash of science fiction then Lockout is for you. If you are a wargamer it also has several set pieces which would work really well in USEME or HOF Fire-Team. If you want real class go and get Escape from New York!