Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lockout (2012)

Title: Lockout (2012)

Directors: James Mather, Stephen St. Leger

Cast: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Peter Stormare


I love films that take place in space because space always has this aura of danger to it. In these kinds of films you have to deal with the idea that humans were not made to be in space, it is very obviously not our natural habitat. Not only that, space is quiet and lonely; I’ve never been up to space, but you kind of get the idea that if you float a couple of hours up there in all that darkness, you’ll end up feeling disconnected from humanity. To me, it’s that quiet, that isolation, that imminent danger and risk factor that makes it such a great setting for a movie to take place in. Plus, space is the great unknown, we know next to nothing about it except that it’s vast and seemingly never ending. That mystery surrounding space is what pulls me in to these type of movies. So it’s no surprise that once Lockout was release I was there as soon as I could to see it. How was it?

Lockout tells the story of a guy named Snow. He is wrongfully accused of a murder, so he is being sent to this super jail in space called MS-1 where he will be held in suspended animation for 15 years to pay for his ‘crime’. At the same time, the presidents daughter, a young lady be the name of Emilie Warnock, is visiting MS-1. She’s making sure that the prisoners are being treated correctly and that the process of cryo-stasis is a reliable one. Rumors are running around that turning convicts into popsicles has secondary effects on the inmates. Supposedly when unfrozen from a long sleep an inmate can suddenly suffer from space dementia or a bad case of the shakes. Others say that you can have nightmares while under cryo-stasis. Imagine having a nightmare that lasts for 15 years! Problems start when every single one of the inmates in MS-1 is unfrozen are released! Now all the loons and psychos are running free through the ship. First order of the day? Kidnap the Presidents daughter as ransom for their demands! So now, instead of being turned into a Popsicle himself, Snow is going to MS-1 to rescue the presidents’ daughter! Can he pull it off right smack in the middle of a major jailbreak?

Guy Pierce plays the super tough Snow, a guy who takes a licking and keeps on ticking. You try and punch out a confession out of this guy, and he’ll spit a one liner for every punch you give him. You tell him he’s going to be frozen for the next fifteen years for a crime he didn’t commit and he tells you he’s looking forward to it. That’s right boys and girls; this is the kind of movie Lockout is, like something straight out of the eighties. Which means this is not a movie to be taken seriously at all, and if you didn’t get that from simply watching the previews, well then I’m telling you, this movie is brisk, fast paced and quick with a one liner. In fact, after a while you kind of get the feeling that that’s the only language Snow speaks, not a single line of dialog from this guy is serious! He is a non stop barrage of jokes and sly remarks. Guy Pierce as the wisecracking Snow is part of what makes this flick a little more watchable then it should be, other wise, had it starred someone like Mark Wahlberg, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much.

This kind of film is tailor made for me; I’m the audience that studios targeted to merchandise this film. I was raised on a steady diet of 80’s action films like Die Hard (1988), Commando (1985), Lock-Up (1989) and Escape from New York (1981). So of course I was going to go and watch this one. I mean the previews hailed it as a mix between Blade Runner (1982) and Escape from New York! But of course, previews will tell you anything to get your butt inside the movie theater. And that they did because this film is nothing like Blade Runner, I don’t know where they dug that one out of. But it is a lot like Escape from New York, so I guess they only half lied on their advertising campaign. Same as Snake Plissken in Escape from New York, Snow is a guy who’s treated like crap by the system. He’s going to be the scapegoat to pay for someone elses crimes, he’s the guy the system loves to stump with their boot. Until the day they need him. When they need him they quickly change their attitudes. They offer him a full pardon, give him all the weapons and gadgets he needs and send him on life threatening mission. What producers won’t tell you is that this film is also a bit like Escape from L.A. (1996) because it’s also about having to go into a dangerous penitentiary to rescue the presidents’ daughter. Lockout also has elements from films like Stuart Gordon’s campy and gory prison break film, Fortress (1992), but if I’m to be even more accurate I’d say its closer to Fortress 2 (2000) which takes place in a maximum security prison out in space. The point is that this film is not very original, at all. Expect no surprises. This is a compilation of a lot of films that came before it.  

But so what, while watching Lockout you’ll notice that it’s obvious these guys knew the kind of b-movie they were making. They wanted a film filled with wise cracks, fast action and a happy ending. It’s a film made by French guys playing the Hollywood game note for note. Luc Besson knows what American audiences want to see and he’s giving it to them. It’s not unlike what the Italians did back in the day with films like 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982), which by the way also has some similarities with Lockout. Another way to look at Lockout is that it works just like The Transporter films. You know they are not the best action films ever made or ground breaking or though provoking on any level. What The Transporter films do is play with a pre-established formula for an action film; but who cares right? Because it’s always cool to see Jason Statham driving fast cars and kicking some ass. Lockout is the same type of picture; originality is not a priority, this film is simply playing with the genre, which of course can be fun. Believability is not the main concern here either; the filmmakers’ main concern is that you have a good time at the movies. They want you too laugh and say “cool!” every five seconds. Unfortunately some of the effects work won’t make you say “cool” every five seconds. There’s this completely laughable and terribly achieved effects sequence that has Snow stealing a futuristic motorcycle and ensuing on a high speed chase. The whole sequence was computer generated, but not in a good way. I nominate this sequence for worst computer animated sequence of the year. I mean, this one is right up there with the crappy aliens from TheDarkest Hour (2011). Worst part of all is that the filmmakers chose this terrible sequence to open their movie with!

I respect Luc Besson as a filmmaker. When the guy is on, he makes films like Leon: The Professional (1994) and The Fifth Element (1997). Currently he keeps directing European films that never see the light of day in America, and produces many others that do. As a producer, he doesn’t really care about making quality films; he cares more about making money. The Transporter films are a good example of this. Not the best films in the world, but they make a pretty penny, and they also allow new upcoming directors to stretch their artistic muscles and learn a thing or two about filmmaking. Lockout is one such film. It was directed by a duo of Besson protégés called James Mather and Stephen St. Leger; two guys with not a lot of real filmmaking experience in their hands, save for their short films, but hey, that’s how many great filmmakers start out, so maybe these guys will be the future. For now, we get their first steps in filmmaking with Lockout. Final words on Lockout: I love space faring adventures as much as the next guy (and this one had its moments) but some of the effects work on Lockout are amateurish! At least the quick action and the numerous one liners will keep you entertained. Unfortunately this is the kind of movie you forget as soon as you leave the theater. It’s a quick fix for sci-fi junkies like me self, but not a full course.

Rating: 3 out of 5 


Jack Thursby said...

This sound like some junky fun. Always good to see a respected actor take a risk on a b-movie like this.

Will probably give it a go when its on DVD. They don't make cheap sci-fi stuff like this anymore. It's always got to be big budget or nothing.

I know what you mean about Besson. I wish he'd go back to directing feature films. Those animated Arthur and the Invisibles films he made look terrible.

Dan O. said...

I thought Pearce’s performance was awesome and probably the best part of this flick. The action was also a lot fun too but you’ve all seen this done time and times before. Good review.

Unknown said...

Yeah, this looks like one to catch on DVD. I will say that the trailers make this look like a lot of fun and I do really like Guy Pearce so based on his presence alone I'm curious to check it out. These kinds of B-movies can be a lot of fun. Case in point: DISTRICT B13.

Franco Macabro said...

Jack Thursby: Exactly, this kind of film is perfect for watching on DVD, it kind of reminded me of the kind of "cheap" sci-fi films they'd make in the eighties like Spacehunter (1983).

Those Arthur movies that Besson has been making apparently make a lot of dough, he's made three of them already! I do wish he'd make a live action soon, I miss his style!

@Dan O: Thanks Dan O!

@J.D.: It is fun, the trailers make it look 'great', way better then it actually is, which is why I went straight to the theater as soon as it was released in my country.

Pierce was the funnest part of the film, hey, at least everything goes by pretty quickly, it's very fast paced. Hope you enjoy it when you get to see it. It might be derivative, but the fun factor is definetly there.

District B13 was a lot of fun, it had a lot of action, way more than this one did. I'm looking forward to similar film called 'The Raid' it also seems to have tons of action and fights. Have you seen that one?

Unknown said...

I haven't see THE RAID yet but I've heard a lot of positive buzz about it that has me intrigued.

SFF said...

I was interested until now my friend. Thanks for watching it so I don't have to. : ) SFF

Franco Macabro said...

I was interested too TSFF, I went in there pumped. I got exactly the kind of movie I was expecting, dumb, quick, and pointless; you just get the feeling that none of the actors are taking the film too seriously. It's not a horrible film, it's just the kind of movie you're better of watching on DVD.


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