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Lockout (2012)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

LOCKOUT (2012)

Starring: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Vincent Regan, Joseph Gilgun, Lennie James, Peter Stormare

Written By: Stephen St. Leger, James Mather, Luc Besson (also concept)

Directed By: James Mather & Stephen St. Leger

The Short Version

If you’re looking for some escapist action fun, Lockout delivers... sometimes despite itself.

Guy Pearce and Maggie Grace will keep your attention.

Not that it’s easy to get bored with rapid pacing like this.

Now if only some idiot hadn’t decided to cut Lockout as a PG-13 flick…

Though it’s watered down by its rating, Lockout is still cool enough for a rockin’ good time.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

CONCESSION STAND NACHOS.

Sure, they can be a bit of a mess and they’re not exactly the height of innovation, but they’re still tasty.


Pairs Well With...

IRISH WHISKEY & WATER.

It could have been straight up whiskey, but some fool decided to weaken it.

“I see you.  I foresee you.”


I’m going to run this plot by you.  See if it’s familiar.

The President’s daughter is trapped in an isolated location where she’s being held captive by some really nasty criminals.  Instead of sending in the Marines, the President and his advisors decide instead to send in just one man to get her out: a man who not only has super awesome killer elite skills of doom, but who is also being held as a dangerous criminal and whose only chance at a pardon is rescuing the nice lady.

If you said John Carpenter’s Escape from LA, you are correct!  You are also correct if you said Lockout!  Amazing coincidence, isn’t it?

You know what, though?  I don’t care.  Seriously.  Just about everything nowadays is derivative in one form or another, and if you ask some literary theorists, there really are only seven basic plots for any storyteller to choose from anyway.  As long as it’s not flat-out plagiarism – which this isn’t; there are enough twists and differences – and it was a decent story to begin with, everyone still comes out ahead.

Taken from that perspective, Lockout starts off quite well.

The change in setup for Our Hero is also interesting.  Guy Pearce (LA Confidential) is Sna- er, Snow, ex-of the CIA.  It’s the year 2079, and things have gone very wrong in his hotel room in a way that only bullets and their friends can accomplish.  One of the victims hands Snow a cigarette lighter and a briefcase, and with his dying breath begs Snow to not let “them” get their hands on “it.”  After a spirited chase across town, Snow manages to deliver the case to an accomplice via a spectacular handoff (really: it’s awesome), but is then arrested by members of the current CIA.  They’re not amused with what just happened, and Snow is promptly sentenced to 30 years in an experimental stasis prison called MS-1 located in Earth orbit.

Why yes, that would be our extra special isolated location, thanks.

As far as space prisons go, this one’s got a more interesting concept than some others do.  It’s only been online for a year, and is privately owned but under the authority of the US government, though other nations can pay to send their own worst offenders up, as well.  Prisoners are placed in stasis for the duration of their sentences, but there’s some question about how effective it is, including rumors that the process can cause dementia, or worse.  Maybe that’s why the major investor in the place is a deep space exploration company; word is that they’re using the stasis prisoners as guinea pigs.

That scuttlebutt is what brings the First Daughter, Emilie (Maggie Grace, Malice in Wonderland), aboard.  She’s a genuinely concerned social activist, see, and if there are bad things happening in orbit, she wants to expose them.  It’s too bad that her Secret Service guard brings a gun into the interview room against advice, thus allowing a prisoner to pick to it from him, cause some chaos, and eventually release all of the prisoners, who in turn take the facility hostage.  I think you’re up to speed now…

As noted, once one decides to accept the derivative nature of Lockout and just sits back to enjoy the show, there’s fun to be had and good stuff to be enjoyed, even when it may be counterintuitive to do so.

For example, I’m usually suspicious when there’s more than one person occupying the director’s chair, but first timers Stephen St. Leger and James Mather do a decent (and cohesive) job.  The pacing of Lockout is dynamite; indeed, it’s so rapid-fire that it’s often the pacing that allows Lockout to get away with its mistakes (more later), because there’s really not much time to dwell on them.  However, there is time to breathe, so the audience doesn’t have to worry about action overload, either, which is always a plus.  The action’s quick, the entertainment level is high, and the one-liners and punchlines are sharp.

And then there’s Guy Pearce, who is – pardon the pun – a riot to watch as Snow.  There’s simply no questioning his prowess when it comes to handling the physical component of the role, but it’s the personality he brings to the part that really makes him stand out.  He’s a much louder smartass than Kurt Russell’s Snake Plissken (to whom to comparisons will inevitably be made), but he stops just short of crossing the “too obnoxious” line.  Indeed, to my ears, Pearce actually rises above the script and saves it, because it’s very easy to hear the exact same words coming out of someone else’s mouth and sounding just plain irritating.  Yes, ladies and gents, the person reading the lines is important.

Also enjoyable is Maggie Grace, who in some ways brings to mind Winona Ryder in her prime here, though I actually like what Maggie Grace does better.  She’s a fun foil for Pearce’s smartass, and holds her own just fine everywhere else.  Everything about this performance made me think “I want to see more,” and really, it doesn’t get much better than that.

So: great pacing, fun action, excellent leads, sharp dialogue sharpened even further by said excellent leads.  Everything’s good, right?

Well, yes and no.  Because of everything noted above and a few more things that I’ll let you discover on your own, Lockout is indeed a fun ride and worth your time to catch in a theatre.  But even with that in mind, I really, really, really hope that there’s a substantially recut version that makes it to home video when the time comes.

Why yes, it is rant time now.

I do not and never will understand the alleged logic behind shooting for a PG-13 rating for films that are supposed to be balls-to-the-walls action flicks featuring lots of nasty characters, high body counts, and really big explosions.  Of course, that’s because there is no real logic behind it, just stupid rationalization, and alas, the Suits at the studio decided to apply said stupid rationalization to the cutting of Lockout.  Attention Suits: it does not bring more people to the theatre!  It makes them angry and drives them away, and makes them wait for video and Netflix where they hope an unrated cut will show up, though they may no longer be interested by the time the movie gets there.

Seriously, people: what is the point of having an exploding head if you’re not going to show it on camera?  That’s just moronic.  And let’s be real: we’re talking about a movie that takes place in a maximum security prison.  Watering things down gets extremely obvious extremely fast.  And if you’re going to include the constant threat of rape throughout the proceedings, anyway, I think you’ve already crossed the “nasty” line far enough that you might as well go ahead and reach for that “R” rating your audience wanted in the first damn place.  (Spoiler for the sake of good taste: the threat is never carried out, but again, the fact that the implication is always there and spoken of out loud already crosses a content line that makes wussing out on the violence just plain stupid.)

Okay; I think we’re clear now on what the studio should have wanted to shoot for in terms of rating, don’t you?

Watering down aside, Lockout suffers from one other major sin.  While most of the movie looks good, the digital nature of the motorcycle chase is so blatant that it looks to have come straight out of a video game.  But the real rubber chicken award has to go to whoever thought that the completely unfinished digital block model of the White House was “good enough.”  Would it really have been too expensive to insert some halfway decent stock footage (or at least computer graphics consistent in quality with the rest of the movie) instead?  Especially given how much better the rest of Lockout looks, that shot is seriously embarrassing and should never have made the final cut.  Yeah, it only lasts a few seconds, but it really stands out.

But again, despite the best efforts of the Suits to ruin it and despite a couple of glaring corners cut by the effects department, Lockout still manages to be fun.  If I hadn’t been sold already, the last conversation before the credits roll would have pushed me over the edge.  I admit it: I laughed out loud.

Bottom line, as much as I don’t want to encourage the studios to keep thinking that PG-13 water-downs are okay, I still have to recommend Lockout as a fun action escape that’ll make you grin.  Go ahead and catch it at the multiplex, though I really hope that there’s an unrated version with an on camera exploding head waiting for me when it comes time for this to show up on home video.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, April, 2012


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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