The similarities between Lockout and 2008’s Takenare so abundant that it almost seems lazy to make the comparison (notice, however, how that will not stop me). Both come from the Luc Besson School of Filmmaking, both feature Maggie Grace in desperate need of some life savin’, and both center around tough guys who can kill you with a neck chop just as easily as with a machine gun. In theory, these two films are so close, in fact, that I’ve been referring to Lockout as Taken 1.5 or Taken in Space for several months. Really, besides the outer space setting, the one real difference between these films is that Taken is good and Lockoutis not.
Snow (Guy Pearce) is the prototypical anti-hero. He’s a bit of a loose cannon who plays by his own rules and he still smokes so you know he’s cool. After he is framed for the murder of his CIA superior, Snow is sentenced to a prison term on MS One, a prison that resides in orbit around the earth and houses the world’s worst criminals. But before Snow can be transferred to his new residence, an uprising begins on MS One and soon the prisoners have control of the space station. To make matters worse, the president’s daughter, Emilie (Maggie Grace), just happens to be aboard the station and is being held hostage along with a host of less important civilians. Given an opportunity to earn his freedom, Snow agrees to take on the rescue mission, though he has a much more important agenda for getting on board the station.
What you have to love about Lockout is its brazenness. There’s no pretense involved with this movie; if you ever saw one of the trailers, you know exactly what you’re getting. Much like its counterpart Taken, Lockout doesn’t take itself seriously whatsoever and as such, it invites the viewer to step into a world of complete absurdity in which we’ll have a few laughs while watching things explode. More often than not, that’s an invitation I can’t resist. And for its part, Lockout does its best to live up to the low-quality, high-fun standard it set for itself.
The problem is that that brazenness (which was Taken’s second greatest strength behind Liam Neeson) becomes this movie’s downfall. Lockoutis rife with bad shots, overdone supporting characters, and abysmal special effects. All of this is presented in a, “Yeah, this is terrible, so what?” sort of way that bothered me. I didn’t expect a Nolan-esque approach to action but there’s a limit to what I should be asked to accept from a film in the way of corner-cutting. The effects in particular were a tremendous letdown. With this sort of film I anticipate bad dialogue and paper thin characters but that those issues will be at least partially covered up with spectacular action sequences. The graphics within Lockout are some of the worst I’ve ever seen in a mainstream movie. And by mainstream, I mean anything higher in quality than the straight-to-DVD knock offs that find their way onto Netflix Instant a week after a big action flick debuts (see: Transmorphers). While Lockout wouldn’t work if directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger had attempted to turn in a more significant, hardcore action piece, much of this movie comes across as if the filmmakers didn’t care about turning in a decent product.
That’s a real shame because Guy Pearce is an absolute riot in the lead role. Snow is irreverent, overly confident, and brash and completely unapologetic which, of course, makes him exceedingly appealing. Pearce hits every mark perfectly and he gives the character a lighter edge that works well in this setting and keeps Lockoutfrom becoming too one-dimensional. I expected Snow to be Pearce’s interpretation of Liam Neeson and while that might not have been a bad thing, what we’re really treated to is a character that is part Neeson (in any action movie) and part Captain Jack Sparrow. He’s got a Sparrow-like flowiness to him and while you can’t exactly call his one-liners witty, they are delivered with a pinpoint precision that drives the jokes home expertly. It’s unfortunate that this performance comes in a movie that doesn’t really deliver much else in the way of value but it is still a fun turn for a great actor and one that keeps Lockout from becoming a total loss.