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Review

‘Lockout’ doesn’t stand out from the crowd

Michael Brun

April 27, 2012

Sometimes you just feel like fast food. “Lockout” is the cinematic equivalent of a big, greasy cheeseburger— not of the highest quality, but a whole lot of fun.

From the mind of writer Luc Besson, the man behind “The Transporter” and “Taken,” “Lockout” is B-grade popcorn entertainment. There are no hidden meanings or philosophical ramblings here, just an hour and a half of juvenile humor and campy action.

Movie poster for Lockout
Lockout was written by Luc Besson, the man behind “The Transporter” and “Taken.”

The plot reads like a combination of “Die Hard” and “Escape from New York,” with bits of “Demolition Man” thrown in for good measure.

After the president’s daughter, played by Maggie Grace, is taken hostage aboard an orbiting prison satellite, ex-CIA operative Snow, played by Guy Pearce, has to blast into space to rescue her.

Snow is an old school action hero—wisecracking and cynical, but wholly capable as a one-man army. Pearce channels a young Bruce Willis, blasting bad guys with insulting quips just as often as with bullets. His performance is a nostalgic throwback to a bygone era of action movies.

Of course every good action movie needs a good villain. In “Lockout” that role is shared by Vincent Regan and Joseph Gilgun, playing brothers who lead the inmates’ revolt. The former is a methodical mastermind, while the latter is downright insane. They’re funny, sadistic and a perfect fit for this kind of movie.

Humor is at the forefront in “Lockout,” and the key to its success. Not a minute goes by without some kind of joke, be it a cheesy one-liner or situational gag. When the plot starts to stall out in the final act, it’s the humor that keeps things rolling.

The humor in “Lockout” is great, but it’s only half of the action/comedy formula, and ultimately it’s the action that trips it up.

First off, there are surprisingly few action scenes aboard the space prison. Save for a hilariously awful homage to the “Star Wars” Death Star trench assault, most of the movie features Pearce and Grace sneaking around to avoid conflict. It’s not boring by any means, but it’s also not the action extravaganza the previews would have you believe it to be.

Secondly, and even more damning, is the nauseating style in which the scarce action scenes are shot. Directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger use a combination of fast motion, shaky camera work and blurriness. The results look cheap, more like a low-budget video game than a theatrical release.

Further detracting from the overall experience is a confusing and altogether unnecessary subplot about Snow trying to clear his name after being wrongfully accused of treason. The foundation of “Lockout” is the concept of a prison riot in space. This idea is played out to its logical conclusion, complete with an appropriately absurd climax. But then the movie limps on for another 10 minutes, rushing to wrap up a storyline that never got off the ground in the first place.

Like a fast-food meal, “Lockout” is best enjoyed for the moment and without much thought. You might feel a bit sick at the end, but the temporary enjoyment is enough to satisfy your base cravings.

Michael Brun is an alumnus of UW-River Falls.