‘Lockout’ movie review: Guy Peace breaks out of space jail in top B-movie

Just when I was thinking there weren’t enough outer space prison break movies, here comes Lockout, which is being promoted as “Die Hard meets Blade Runner”. Uh-huh. Think Con Air meets Escape from New York, and you’re getting closer.

Lockout is expectedly ridiculous stuff that stretches credibility and then snaps it right off (just wait for the climactic skydiving sequence). 

But it’s also snappy and quick – produced and co-written by Luc Besson, and strongly adhering to his action movie formula that has generated From Paris with Love, Taken, and Colombiana in recent years – and surprisingly tolerable, if you don’t take it too seriously (or rather, seriously at all). Call it a guilty pleasure.

In the year 2079, Snow (Guy Pearce) is a discredited CIA agent accused of killing a fellow agent who had been investigating a mole. The Secret Service, led by Agent Langral (Peter Stormare), believes Snow to be the mole; Snow had swiped a briefcase from the deceased agent containing…something, but unfortunately he passed it to his partner, who has since been sent to space prison.

Ah, space prison, where prisoners are kept in a kind of freeze-dried stasis for the duration of their sentence. I wonder; do they come out rehabilitated? Anyway, they only seem to come out of stasis when doing interviews with, let’s say, the president’s daughter (Maggie Grace), and, oh yeah, when one of them escapes during said interview, and releases all the rest of them.

So there’s the mad dog bad guy (Joseph Gilgun) and his slightly saner brother (Vincent Regan), and 400 other prisoners who escape their confinement but are still stranded on a floating space station. So they take some hostages, including the president’s daughter, Dog Day Afternoon style. I wish more of the film was devoted to their point of view; how do they expect this to work out? “I want a rocket ship. And 200 pizzas.”

Snow is lucky: apparently, he’s the only guy capable of infiltrating the space prison and rescuing the president’s daughter, and heck, he can meet up with his partner while he’s there, and find out where the briefcase is. Piece of cake.

This thing couldn’t get much sillier, but don’t worry, debut directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger aren’t taking it seriously, either; they keep things moving fast enough so that while we can chuckle at all the incredulities, we don’t have time to pick apart.

The cast takes the same approach. Pearce knows exactly what kind of movie this is, and he’s a lot of fun as the wisecracking antihero. But the real eye-catcher is Gilgun (This is England) as the foaming-at-the-mouth Scottish psychopath. He grabs hold of the movie from his introduction and doesn’t let go in a breakout performance.

An unoriginal grabbag of science(less) fiction, Lockout is both uninspired and uninspiring. But it’s also lean, quick, and agreeably absurd. And if you’re looking for an outer space prison escape flick, well, I don’t think you’re going to do much better.

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Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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