Lockout: Guy Pearce Trapped In A Space Jail And A Subpar Film
High-concept macho action flicks are my bread and butter. If you had pitched me “Die Hard plus Con Air in space,” I would’ve put it right at the top of my must-see list for 2012. Unfortunately, Lockout is far from Die Hard– it’s even far from Con Air. The script puts all of its energy into generating wisecracks for Guy Pearce and never creates characters for us to *care* about. James Mather and Stephen St. Leger create a series of incomprehensible action sequences and special effects that look less realistic than most HD video games. While it remains a passable diversion due to the crackling spirit Guy Pearce gives the hero role, Lockout never became the action-packed guilty pleasure I wanted it so desperately to become. Instead of blasting off, Lockout remains sadly down to earth.
Snow (Guy Pearce) is an ex-CIA operative accused by the head of the Secret Service (Peter Stormare) of murdering his CIA partner during a blown mission and absconding with a suitcase. When captured, he passes the suitcase off to his partner Mack (Tim Plester). Meanwhile, the president’s daughter (Maggie Grace) is on a fact-finding mission to MS-One, the world’s first space station serving as a maximum security prison. There have been rumors that the deep sleep they put prisoners in causes dementia and psychosis. When interviewing one particularly insane inmate (Joseph Gilgun), he breaks free and lets loose all of the prisoners, who take the space station hostage. Snow is given a choice: go to MS-One to rescue the president’s daughter or go to MS-One as a prisoner once the situation has been handled. Snow at first refuses, but when he’s informed Mack is being held on MS-One as well, he has a change of heart. So to speak.
Guy Pearce is working his damndest to make Snow a John McClane-esque hero defined by his wisecracking and “coolness,” and his delivery is spot-on– the movie made me laugh out loud several times, and Pearce is a believable badass. However, his character never changes. He’s a selfish egomaniac when he begins and he’s a selfish egomaniac when it ends. They hint once at the briefest moment of selflessness, but then they immediately bury it under a thick layer of irony and one-liners. The best heroes might be reluctantly thrown into a mission, but they must begin to believe in it. There has to be a sense of change within your main character, or your film feels flat and arc-less. Maggie Grace has even less to do in the secondary role, essentially relegated to shrill smug damsel in distress. The villains have a sense of relationship and arc, and Joseph Gilgun has tons of fun hamming it up in a way that makes Daniel Day-Lewis look like Steven Wright, but there’s really not anything to be done to save the film’s story.
So that leaves us with action and special effects, right? Many a film has been saved from corny dialogue and flat characters by slick kinetic visuals and ingenuity. Unfortunately, the first major directorial gig for Mather and Leger has been fumbled in a pretty notable way. They do admirably ape some of their producer Luc Besson’s imagery and editing techniques, but there’s nothing remotely new here. I could pinpoint the moment I knew the film wouldn’t be special– very early on, Guy Pearce hops on a souped-up futuristic motorcycle that seems to go 200-300 miles per hour. Accompanied by the poorest CGI imaginable in a 2012 major studio release, he makes a cell phone call (which is perfectly audible on both ends, inexplicably) while weaving in and out of traffic. It’s like someone pointed a digital camera at someone playing LOCKOUT: THE VIDEO GAME on Playstation 2. The spaceship fights later in the film are even worse. We’re left, at the end of the film, with a funny likable hero with no cool fights to engage in, no cool special effects surrounding him, and no memorable journey to embark upon. I suppose the title, which otherwise makes no sense, must refer to Pearce’s character being locked out of a better film.