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If you’ve been jonesin’ for a little Snake Plissken in your cinematic diet of late, have no fear, Snow is here. Okay, so Guy Pearce in the Luc Besson-produced “Lockout” is not exactly Snake Plissken, but let’s face it, it’s not like you have a lot to choose from nowadays. Give the guy a chance, because Pearce as Snow is easily the best thing about “Lockout”, though I suppose Maggie Grace once again in need of rescuing could be entertaining in its own right — in a, “Oh my God, Maggie Grace needs rescuing again?” sort of way. Bottom line? “Lockout” is fun. Anyone needing more than that can just move right on along now without reading the rest of this review.
Pearce is Snow, a wrongly convicted (re: set up) ex-CIA agent in the near future who finds himself tasked with infiltrating, rescuing, and then escaping a massive, orbiting space prison called MS One that has since been taken over by its 500 convicts. An experimental business venture run by the U.S. Government, MS One is about to go fully operational, where it will open its doors to cons from all around the world at a nice tidy profit. But first, it needs some good PR, which it could get if humanitarian First Daughter Emilie (Maggie Grace) goes back home and reports that all is well with the facilities. Before she can do that, though, a prisoner somehow grabs hold of a weapon, kills lots of people, starts freeing his fellow prisoners, and kills even more people. As the kids would say, it’s on!
Never you mind how much of “Lockout” happens, this is a Luc Besson action movie. Scripting, er, issues are par for the course, and your only job here is to sit back and enjoy the ride as Snow hops onto MS One with nary a glitch and locates the missing First Daughter. Then stuff gets a little tricky for our hero. In his way are the bad guys, led by the mastermind Alex (Vincent Regan) and the psychotic Hydell (Joseph Gilgun). Alex and Hydell don’t so much as co-honcho the space prison rebellion as Alex tries to keep Hydell from killing all their hostages, though oddly this doesn’t prevent Alex from popping one or two (or a dozen) hostages anyway. Yeah, scripting issues, like I said. Luckily for our group of cons, though, the President of the United States isn’t quite ready to write off his daughter.
“Lockout” is an action-comedy, which sort of explains all the stuff in the film that just, you know, sorta happens. Co-written and directed by Irish lads James Mather and Stephen St. Leger, the film moves at a fast clip, zooming from one set-up to another and never really stopping to catch its breath. One minute Snow is on Earth being railroaded by the justice system — cut — and he’s in outer space ready to pull a “Die Hard in a Space Prison”. But while they may fumble a bit on some of the film’s action sequences (I have absolutely no idea what was going on in that car chase), Mather and Leger make up for it with laughs. “Lockout” is funnier than it has any right to be, mostly thanks to an all-in commitment by Pearce to the material and the character of Snow. Lennie James, as a sympathetic CIA spook who seems to be in cahoots with Snow, along with Peter Stormare, as a douchey Secret Service agent who is put in charge of the hostage rescue, provides some unexpected chuckles, too.
There is some side story about humane treatment of the prisoners (you know, those rioting, raping, and murdering, well, rapists and murderers) and corporate conspiracy shenanigans, but they’re such throwaway plots that I’m not sure why Mather and Leger even bothered to exert the energy to put them into the script. “Lockout” is about the action, Snow firebombing one-liners, and seeing how many ways Maggie Grace’s delicate First Daughter can get her sensibilities ruffled by this crude superhero of a former CIA agent. That’s really where “Lockout” earns its bones — it’s got a hell of a leading man in Pearce, and he’s playing one hell of a hero. There is a scene in “Lockout” where Snow cold-cocks Maggie Grace, a moment that will, surely, make you love the guy even more.
I said previously that this was a Luc Besson action movie. If you even know what that means, then you’ll pretty much know what to expect from “Lockout” — a fast-moving, loosely-plotted, and highly enjoyable shoot’em up. Mather and Leger may not have created the new Snake Plissken, but they came pretty close. Which leads me to this thought: Besson is known for jump-starting franchises from his action films, even the moderately successful ones, and Snow is certainly the most sequel/franchise-ready character I’ve seen in a while. Don’t keep me hanging, Luc.
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James Mather, Stephen St. Leger (director) / James Mather, Stephen St. Leger, Luc Besson (screenplay)
CAST: Maggie Grace … Emilie Warnock
Guy Pearce … Snow
Peter Stormare … Scott Langral
Vincent Regan … Alex
Lennie James … Harry Shaw
Joseph Gilgun … Hydell
Jacky Ido … Hock
Anne-Solenne Hatte … Kathryn
Tim Plester … Mace