Mania Review: Lockout -

Mania Grade: B-

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  • Starring: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Vincent Regan, Peter Stormare, Lennie James, and Joe Gilgun
  • Written by: James Mather and Stephen St. Leger
  • Directed by: James Mather and Stephen St. Leger
  • Studio: FilmDistrict
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Run Time: 110 minutes
  • Series:

Mania Review: Lockout

Needs more ducts.

By Rob Vaux     April 13, 2012

 I saw Lockout less than 72 hours before sitting down to write this review and I already feel the details slipping out of my mind. As popcorn fare, it’s utterly disposable: evaporating the minute the credits start to roll. Luckily, it also comes from Luc Besson – as potent a purveyor of cinematic junk food as you’re likely to find – and the two freshmen directors understand his ethos without having to be told twice. That auteurial stamp spells the difference between “a forgettable good time” and simply “forgettable.”

While we’re tossing names around, I might quietly mention John Carpenter, whose Escape from New York serves as obvious inspiration. He hinted at a second sequel to that film, Escape from Earth, and had it ever been put into production, it might have looked a lot like this. 65 years in the future, the United States has solved the prison problem: a giant orbital space station keeping hundreds of the world’s most dangerous psychopaths in cryogenic storage. Breaking out means a spacesuit and/or a way to traverse hundreds of miles of vacuum safely, making it just about foolproof.

Naturally, all that goes out the window in the first fifteen minutes, as criminals take over the station and the president’s daughter (Maggie Grace) gets taken hostage. It’s up to wisecracking CIA Agent Snow (Guy Pearce) – wrongfully convicted and due for a stint in the prison himself – to break in and save the girl.  The impregnable fortress quickly becomes eminently pregnable, thanks to the expected array of abandoned ducts, empty corridors and airlocked doors overridden with a few hasty clicks of a keypad. That leaves only a faceless array of bad guys to vanquish, a predictably feisty girl to woo, and a bunch of stuffed shirts in the front office to depants with the power of a heroic sneer.

Actually, there’s a little more to it, namely a totally superfluous subplot involving hidden traitors and secret agendas and a briefcase full of Marcellus Wallace’s soul or something. It clutters up the beginning and end while only providing a little bit of character justification in exchange. (Snow agrees to the mission just so he can talk to some guy inside the prison who knows where the briefcase is and zzzzzzzzz…). Movie like this never benefit from too much plot, but Lockout can’t resist it and the mistake proves severely problematic.

The film also loses points for nakedly pandering to a PG-13 rating. An R-rated version clearly exists, with plenty of creative mayhem shots mysteriously (and rather crudely) excised from this version. We wouldn’t feel the absences if they took a little more care with the final cut, but watching the obvious money shots fail to materialize is actively painful. This movie needs a few over-the-top kills: exploding eyeballs, steam pipes through the chest, the occasional reproductive organ frozen to the side of a bulkhead, etc. Market wussiness denies us these treats… and if you can’t expect them in an effort like this, then cinema really is dead.

Amazingly, however, Lockout actually rebounds from those flaws. Directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger retain the earthy pleasures of a badass shooting horrible creeps in interesting ways, mostly by thinking up new ways to deliver the goods. They subvert our expectations just often enough to sell the product – not necessarily brilliantly (certainly not with the masterful Cabin in the Woods opening the same day) but at least with some effort. Pearce helps out a great deal in that regard, pegged here seemingly because Hugh Jackman was busy, but thoroughly enjoying the outing regardless.

Perhaps most importantly, Lockout gets the joke. Composed of seemingly one cliché after another, it embraces its own ridiculousness rather than hide from it. Everyone involved keeps their tongue firmly in their cheeks, and if they don’t break any new ground, at least they go over some old ones with an eye on why we found it all enjoyable in the first place. Make no mistake: this is a guilty pleasure of the highest order, and if you have a better option you should definitely run with it. But the emphasis is on the “pleasure” rather than the “guilty,” and since it makes no apologies for what it is, neither should the viewer regret the utterly disposable entertainment on display. Luc Besson is pretty good at that; judging by the film here, his protégés have taken the lesson to heart.  


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InnerSanctum 4/13/2012 7:05:23 AM

 Rob, now I'm just getting concerned about your reviews.  I've read tons of fellow reviewers that have been bagging on this film.  I'm just going to lock this down to a DVD rental for now.  

Caught Wraith of the Titans finally.  It was a diversion.  Mindless special effects with a video game premise. No real connection with any of the characters.  Small bit "red shirts" that get tossed around.  Big actors cashing in paychecks.  Pretty much what I expected.  Better than Immortals.

MrJawbreakingEquilibrium 4/13/2012 8:14:04 AM

Sending prisoners to space? You really need to go that far? That doesn't sound like it makes much sense and doesn't sound very cost effective. Also - wasn't there something like this in Mass Effect 2? Though I'm sure it's been thought of even before that.

doublec 4/13/2012 12:30:44 PM

No review of The Three Stooges?

Wiseguy 4/13/2012 12:47:06 PM

Space? that ain't so bad in the Marvel U they were sending them to another dimension

InnerSanctum 4/13/2012 1:50:56 PM

 Here is my interview question for the Farley Brothers on a Three Stooges movie....why? 

hanso 4/13/2012 6:00:30 PM

 They answer: $$.

DaForce1 4/13/2012 6:53:47 PM

 Jaw-dudewithalongassname, there's a subplot about why the prisoners are in space, that sets up why the President's daughter is up there in the first place. It's all very tidy and makes sense without having to overthink it. 

My problem was the ratings edit. If you release a movie overseas (or even in canada) with an R rating, don't dumb it down to PG-13 here in the states. Because all that means is that people aren't going to go the theaters to see it, and they'll just wait for the real version to be released on dvd and see it via rental. Or they'll pirate a copy. I saw it on Tues. night at a free sneak preview, and was disappointed at the PG-13 rating. Especially if you've seen the red band trailer.

MrJawbreakingEquilibrium 4/13/2012 7:20:14 PM

The thing is though that R Rated movies in the US don't make as much money here. It works in other countries because they are as prudish about sex or violence. Well - some are. Here in the US we like to blame are problems on fake sex and violence. Well - and gays.

FerretJohn 4/13/2012 10:43:22 PM

As much as I hate agreeing with Vaux (he usually gives me so many really good reasons not to) he is right.  I saw Lockout today and it was good, but not memorably so.  The action was good, the girl was hot, the hero was a snarky butt-kicker.  This movie will not win awards, it won't set box-office records, it gives nothing new in regards to story or film-making.  But it is fun.  It's a Luc Besson action ride and it gives the fans exactly what they came came for: an hour and a half of simple scifi pyrotechnic Give-me-a-villain-who-needs-a-rocket-launcher-shoved-up-his-rectum-then-give-me-a-rocket-launcher entertainment.  If the day is rainy and you don't want to stay in your home flipping through websites it's worth the price of a lunchtime showing.

Chopsaki 4/15/2012 10:46:41 AM

If the movies have taught me anything it's that being the presidents daughter is fraught with danger!

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