Lockout could have been a cult, sci-fi classic. It has a whole heap of potential and ingredients that could have made it a brilliant escapist piece of cinema and a film that could have spurned a Blade Runner style world that people could lose themselves in and fans could develop further. I’m probably over-exaggerating slightly but there is loads to like about Lockout which is let down drastically by what feels like rushed or cheap shortcuts.
The story is a really good, silly and suitably outrageous idea. The President’s daughter is visiting a maximum security prison that is located in space. Due to a security breach, the inmates escape and the daughter needs rescuing. Rogue, renegade CIA agent, Snow (great name) must go in alone and save her. It’s large, extreme and has potential for a great “Die Hard in Space” feel that could have made this a sci-fi classic.
It has the thinnest of plots though, which isn’t necessary. There is no reason to put the President’s daughter in the situations she finds herself in. There are plenty of moments when she could very easily have escaped or avoided the attention of the inmates but very tedious plot devices mean she is always stuck in the prison and Snow has to save her. I understand the importance of suspending your disbelief but my disbelief was stretched to breaking point at moments.
It is the result of the thinnest of plots. The daughter being trapped in the prison is the beginning of a great story, not the whole story. There are attempts at a second story, with Snow being framed for a murder he didn’t commit, but this is skimmed over at the beginning and then rushed at the end. Villains are revealed when I didn’t even know I was supposed to be suspecting anyone else. The film could have used an extra thirty minutes to evolve these story elements further, making the film slightly more credible and much more watchable.
The story may be thin but the script itself has some great moments. Guy Pearce’s Snow gets to say some fantastic moments and feels like the character Bruce Willis should have been playing in his most recent attempt at Die Hard. The introduction to his character is fantastic and the responses he gives to his interrogation are sharp, funny and make his character a hero you want to root for.
It helps that Guy Pearce is great at this kind of role. That “right-man, wrong-place” everyman is becoming a rare character in Hollywood, with superheroes taking most of the action hero roles, but Guy Pearce shows that those types of roles don’t have to die with an aging Willis. He is vulnerable, resourceful and wise-cracking. I want to see him do a lot more films with these kind of roles.
The cast is one of the best elements of the movie. Snow is ably supported in the good guy department by Peter Stormare and Lennie James, both bringing their respectful talents to easy enough roles. It’s with the villains that we get some of the most genius casting. Vincent Regan is a typical British actor playing the baddie but the always fantastic Joseph Gilgun takes the villain role to another level. You’d never know he was the same guy who was vulnerable and sweet in This is England and crude, rude and hilarious in TV show Misfits. He plays a psychotic, Irish murderer so naturally and over-the-top that he is exactly what this movie needs.
That is part of what makes Lockout so infuriating. It has so much potential to be so much better. A great story, fantastic effects and a brilliant cast. It’s just let down by paper-thin writing, convenient plot points and rushed side-stories. It should be a modern classic. Instead it is a generic, B-Movie style, sci-fi.
Overall, the best thing about Lockout is Guy Pearce. This movie demonstrates that there is still life in an everyman action hero below the age of fifty. The movie itself is good escapist fun but I could never get past the feeling that with a bit more time, development and depth, it could have been so much more than that.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)