Directed by: James Mather and Stephen St Leger.
Starring: Guy Pierce, Maggie Grace, Peter Stormare, Lennie James, Vincent Regan, Joseph Gilgun.
The movie opens with an interrogation scene, with ex-CIA operative Snow (Guy Pierce) being asked by Scott Langral (Peter Stormare), the chief of the secret service, about the events that led to him being arrested. We see via flashback where Snow intercepted a briefcase of government secrets at a hotel after a shootout, during which an old friend of Snow’s is shot. With his dying breath as the police arrive, he asks Snow to not let them get the briefcase, and running from the scene Snow is captured after he gets to a train station and hands off the case to Mace, a friend of his who through an unfortunate turn of events, after placing the briefcase in a locker is arrested for shooting a policeman. Snow, now facing inprisonment for espionage, sneaks a message to CIA friend Harry Shaw (Lennie James) during the interrogation, telling him that Mace has the briefcase and to find out where he hid it.
Meanwhile Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace), daughter of the President of the United States, is arriving at MS One, a maximum security space prison where the inmates are frozen in cryogenic suspension. Over humanitarian concerns of side effects caused by the cryogenics process and rumours of experimentation on the inmates by companies that funded the prison, Emilie interviews one of the prisoners, Hydell (Joseph Gilgun), who escapes and instigates a takeover of the prison control room, releasing all 497 prisoners, including his brother Alex (Vincent Regan). Alex takes charge and takes Emilie and the staff hostage unaware of who she is. Back on Earth, when word reaches of the takeover of MS One, Langral pushes the President for a military attack against the automated defenses of the station but Shaw suggests sending in Snow alone to sneak aboard covertly and rescue Emilie. Snow, unwilling to take the mission grudgingly agrees when Shaw tells him that Mace is one of the inmates aboard MS One.
I was not sure what to expect with this movie, while it did look like a decent sci-fi actioner, there is one name involved that gave concern. Directed by James Mather and Stephen St Leger, the two co-wrote the movie with producer Luc Besson, who as anyone that follows my reviews will know, is someone who regularly produces B-grade movies that may be entertaining but are poor movies. There’s usually some issue with ridiculous plotting quite often based around uninteresting characters. Fortunately Lockout is one of Besson’s better produced movies.
While there are some poorly handled special effects sequences (chief of which is the chase sequence in the movie’s opening which gives Paul Greengrasses Bourne Supremacy shaky-cam sequences a headache), and a slightly rushed editing issue, these are only a slight niggle in what is a silly yet extremely enjoyable B-grade action movie that borders on A-grade at times. Yes, essentially the movie is a cross-breeding of the Christopher Lambert prisoner movie Fortress (more specifically the second one given the space station element) and John Carpenter’s classic Escape From New York, but it’s a mix that works, largely because of the central character Snow, played with a richness by Pierce, a wisecracking a**hole who despite his attittude has a charisma that makes him a likeable anti-hero who stands out as one of the better original characters created for movies this year. His dialogie is cheesy throughout, but consistently so, genuinely inducing laughs more than eye rolls. Directors Mather and St Leger have also kept any waiting around to a minimum, with the fat neatly trimmed to make for a lean 95 minutes running time.
The supporting cast are also above average for a Luc Besson production, with Maggie Grace’s performance being believable as the daughter of the President, who while not as strong as Snow, finds strength in the situation she’s in. If there’s one thing we’ve seen with recent movies, it’s that your villains need to be every bit as big as your heroes (see Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol as an example of where this failed), and here the villains, while being horrible characters, fill the screen with their presence. The two main actors, Vincent Regan and Joseph Gilgun bring their characters to life in their own ways, Regan’s Alex as the more sane and controlled of the two brothers, while Gilgun’s Hydell, (while bordering on stereotypical) the more uncontrollable psychotic and crazy one of the two, it brings a nice dynamic to the side of the villains in the movie which has been missing recently in action movies.
At times, given the sub-plotting of the briefcase storyline, there’s a layering of plots that gives way to a feeling that you get when watching a movie based on a book. When walking out of the screening, I had a feeling that this could serve as a launching platform for a series of movies based around the Snow character, almost like the Bond series – not as sequels but just more adventures in the same universe following that character, and I would welcome that, as long as the character remained as enjoyable to watch. Given that the movie was made on a budget of only $30 million (a fraction of blockbusters like this year’s financial failure John Carter that reportedly lost £200 million at the box office), it shouldn’t need to do huge business to make that a possibility.
Posted on April 22, 2012, in Reviews and tagged action, film, guy pierce, James Mather, Joseph Gilgun, Lennie James, luc besson, maggie grace, movie, Peter Stormare, review, sci-fi, science fiction, snow, space prison, Stephen St Leger, Vincent Regan. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.