We review Lock Out – More smartass than smart, this is a disappointing sci-fi actioner

6 min read
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Lock Out, Lock-Out, Lockout, MS One: Maximum Security. These are the various titles that this new science-fiction themed, Luc Besson produced 90’s action movie throwback all went though.

Really though, this film should just have been called the “Guy Pearce Snarky One-Liner Hour” because unfortunately, with the exception of a great opening scene, that is pretty much all it brings to the table.

It’s in that opening that we’re introduced to ex-CIA operative Snow (Guy Pearce), spitting out equal amounts droll sarcasm as blood and teeth, as he gets interrogated by the Head of the Secret Service (Peter Stormare) in 2079. It’s a hilarious scene with some serious punch (Ha ha!), that not only introduces us to Snow’s never-ending stream of snarky bile, but also helps to set up the story through inter-cut flashbacks.

Snow was helping out an intelligence operative friend on a deal when it all went bad, leaving him to incorrectly take the rap for his friend’s murder. The only proof of Snow’s innocence, a mysterious briefcase, ends up in the hands of Snow’s partner Mace, who is soon also captured by police but not before secretly stashing the briefcase away.

With no evidence to bail him out, Snow is soon sentenced to MS One, the outer atmosphere maximum security prison orbiting the Earth, where prisoners are kept in a mind-numbing stasis for the full extension of their sentence. The very same maximum security prison that the US President’s daughter, Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace) is currently visiting to investigate claims that the stasis leaves prisoners as dementia addled wrecks.

True to Maggie Grace form though (Liam Neeson must be so proud), she soon gets taken by a couple of hardened Irish criminal brothers (Vincent Regan as the ringleader, Alex, and Joseph Gilgunn as Hydell, his psychotic younger brother) as they stage a massive prison break at that exact moment. The prisoners quickly overpower the unsuspecting guards but luckily for Emilie, they don’t know who they have as a hostage, and the authorities don’t want to risk a large scale assault for fears that such a high profile target might just get killed in the ensuing fire-fight.

Cue up one reluctant and wise-cracking action hero in the form of Snow, who now has to rescue the President’s daughter and make it off the space prison in one piece.

And quite frankly, if there was even a single line in the plot description you just read that surprised you even in the slightest, then you may just have a smidgen of a chance of enjoying this. For the rest of us though, I have some bad news.

While I completely applaud co-writer/directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger, and co-writer and producer Luc Besson, for trying to make a film in the vein of those popular smash-mouth 90’s action hits like Die Hard (well 2 and 3 were in the 90’s), Con Air and Passenger 57, the fact of the matter is that they just haven’t made a particularly good one.

And while I live under no illusion that most of those films weren’t also highly predictable or slightly cheesy, at least they were exciting. Lock Out never even comes close to recreating the snap of that initial interrogation scene during its 95 minute running time. Which is more the pity as Pearce equates himself quite amicably in his first solo action outing, he just gets asked to do really ho-hum stuff.

I watched this film at a press screening a week ago, and while some other press tend to take notes during these screenings, I find the continuous scribbling in the dark to be very distracting, so I always just rely on my memory of events. Well, 6 days later and I found myself seriously taking a good couple of minutes of hard thinking to even remember some of the 2nd and 3rd act action sequences. And no, my rusty memory is not to blame here, there was really just nothing that stood out.

The big CGI-driven action sequence in act 1 certainly was memorable though, but for all the wrong reasons unfortunately. I know that the creators are trying to pay homage to the 90’s but did they have to make this badly rendered CGI chase sequence look like it was pulled straight from a budget PS One videogame?

Not helping matters much is the fact that pretty much every cast member, with the exception of Pearce, is a complete non-entity. The main bad guy is doing a Gerard Butler impersonation, Maggie Grace is Maggie Grace and Peter Hudson, who plays President Warnock, reacts to the discovery that he has to choose between endangering his daughter’s life in an assault or relying on a convicted criminal to do the right thing, with about as much emotional turmoil as we face when choosing whether to put full cream or low fat milk in our morning tea.

The problems also don’t stop there. Random, apparently important, plot points are introduced with regularity into the script, only to be abandoned 5 minutes later and never heard from again. “Ooh, the prison’s Corporate Sponsor is using the prisoners to test the effects of space travel!… Wait, who said anything about space travel? You must have heard wrong. Lets go shoot random, faceless people and then make fun of their twitching corpses!” So by the time the film’s finale rolls around, you would have stopped caring enough to even roll your eyes at how utterly ridiculous that sequence actually is.

And that’s really the problem with Lock Out: It’s certainly not the worst film you’ll see this year (Ghost Rider, come on down!), and Guy Pearce does the smart-ass badass routine like he was born to it, but other than that it just gives you so much nothing that you can’t even get truly upset about it when it disappoints you.

Last Updated: July 4, 2012

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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