'Die Hard,' with a taste of space
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, Apr. 13, 2012
"Lockout" is meat-and-potatoes filmmaking at its most basic. It's filling, all right, satisfying a basic hunger for red meat and carbs, but with nary a sprig of garnish (let alone a side salad).
Enjoy it, in moderation. It's your recommended weekly allowance of schlock.
Set on a futuristic floating penitentiary in space, the sci-fi action adventure stars Guy Pearce as Snow, a tough guy who has been framed - naturally - but who is offered his freedom if he agrees to rescue the president's do-gooder daughter (Maggie Grace) after she is taken hostage by convicts during an uprising.
Of course, Snow says yes.
Actually, it's more like some smart-alecky rejoinder than a simple "yes." Snow is a poor man's John McClane, the Bruce Willis character in the "Die Hard" movies. He spends virtually all of "Lockout" either kicking tail or cracking wise, even when he's getting punched in the head. The dialogue between Snow and Grace's Emilie, after she's rescued but before they can escape from the orbiting prison, is boilerplate movie banter: half sexual flirtation and half nyuk-nyuk jokes about, say, bowling.
Yes, bowling. The script, by first-time feature writer-directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger, is functional, though filled with as much flat-footed repartee as holes. Although based on an "original" idea by filmmaker Luc Besson ("The Fifth Element"), the movie is anything but. You've seen it a dozen times, and it makes no more sense this time.
After the first half-hour, it's easy to forget that it's set in outer space, and not, say, on Alcatraz Island ("The Rock") or on an airplane ("Con Air"). The only interesting character tension comes from a pair of violent prisoners who also happen to be bickering brothers with thick Scottish accents (Vincent Regan and Joseph Gilgun).
There is one mildly interesting plot complication. Although Snow has ostensibly agreed to save Emilie, he has an ulterior motive in accepting the prison mission.
It seems an accomplice (Tim Plester) in the events leading to Snow's wrongful conviction also happens to be an inmate of the floating jail and might hold a secret that could exonerate our hero.
So there's that, too. It adds a bit of spice to the proceedings, but not much. It's ketchup, not steak sauce.
The de rigueur twist ending isn't that great, either. In fact, a critic sitting next to me had to ask what just happened at the end of the film, after he looked away from the screen for a second and missed a crucial shot.
That's never a good sign. If the film's big payoff scene is so blink-and-you-miss-it quick, the filmmakers had better work a little harder to keep our eyes glued to the screen.
Contains action violence, some obscenity and sexual dialogue.