‘Lockout’ will have you wanting to escape

Guy Pearce takes a smoke break in 'Lockout'
Guy Pearce takes a smoke break in ‘Lockout’

The thing is, normally if someone is making a film based on “an original idea by Luc Besson”, you have high expectations.  Besson, the genius behind such favorites as Leon: The ProfessionalLa Femme NikitaThe Fifth Element and The Transporter is clearly brilliant, a serious talent and capable of creating film and film ideas that can rivet the audience to the screen.

But something went wrong here.

Either the original idea wasn’t properly executed by directors and screenwriters Robert Mather and Stephen St. Leger, or else the idea wasn’t that strong to begin with.  Considering that this film sounds a lot like a cross between Escape from Los Angeles,Demolition Man and Con Air in outerspace, I’m guessing the idea itself wasn’t all that great.

Lockout is the story of a prison in space.  Why there is a prison in space, where 500 of the planet’s worst villians are being maintained in “stasis”, when it costs a fortune to maintain and provision a large, orbiting body isn’t adequately explained.  Oh there are notions that someone interested in exploring space is funding the project, but those notions lack substance.  Like a lot of what we’re treated to on screen.

Guy Pearce stars in 'Lockout'
Guy Pearce stars in ‘Lockout’

The daughter of the U.S. president is making a “humanitarian” visit to this orbital prison, ostensibly to check on the welfare of the prisoners.  Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace) is smart, attractive and well aware that the prison’s protocol of placing prisoners into “stasis” is very risky.  There is a danger that the brains of the prisoners can’t handle the process that places them into stasis, causing mental degradation that would leave the men nothing more than blitering fools, incapable of independent thought.  While that might be a desired outcome in a society that isn’t interested in rehabilitation of its prisoners, it is something she is opposed to.

Naturally she’s accompanied by her own bodyguards, although they are required to turn in their weapons while she is “interviewing” the prisoner she is there to talk to.  And just as naturally you can predict what actually happens during this interview. If you have trouble with that, go back and watch “Con Air” and see how Colm Meany’s character violates protocol when putting his “agent” aboard the prisoner tranport flight.  The same thing is going to happen here.

Soon the inmates are in charge, the guards and support staff of “M.S. One” are hostages and the prisoner leading the revolt wants to negotiate.  Only he’s not aware that his best bargaining chip is within his grasp, because he doesn’t yet know the President’s daughter is aboard.

Now we’re reintroduced to “Snow” (Guy Pearce), whose first name is withheld until later.  He’s a former CIA operative (cliches, anyone) who was framed for a murder he didn’t commit and is trying to get his hands on something that might well prove his innocence.  Just like Snake Plisken was the man to go into New York City/Los Angeles to resuce the President/President’s daughter, Snow is the man to go to M.S. One, rescue Ms Warnock, while not troubling with the rest of the hostages.  Once she’s free and clear, the military will be free to go in and take care of the prisoners and save any hostages that might be left alive.

Pearce and Grace are both too good for the material they are saddled with here.  It isn’t easy to ride sub-standard special effects, predicatable, cliche-ridden story-telling, but they do their best.  Not only are the SFX nothing to write home about, neither are the villains or anyone else.  Grace gets more to do here than in her least Besson effort Taken, but there just isn’t all that much to be done with what she’s given.

Lockout’s final resolution will leave you more relieved than pleased, simply because the ordeal is over.  Let’s hope the next original idea from Besson is either better executed, or else just plain executed and left for dead.

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