[Screen It]

"LOCKOUT"
(2012) (Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Action: A man who's been accused of espionage is sent to an outer space prison to attempt to free the adult daughter of the President of the United States who's been taken hostage by escaped convicts.
PLOT:
It's the year 2079 and the United States has constructed a maximum security prison in Earth's orbit. Prisoners are kept in check by the fact that they're put into suspended animation stasis, but allegations of abuse of that have prompted Emilie Warnock (MAGGIE GRACE), the adult daughter of the President of the U.S., to go there to investigate. While interviewing reanimated prisoner Hydell (JOSEPH GILGUN), things go terribly wrong. He escapes and manages to free the rest of his fellow prisoners, including his older brother, Alex (VINCENT REGAN), who assumes alpha male leadership role over the rest.

That obviously gets the attention of Secret Service official Langral (PETER STORMARE) who's recently been preoccupied with interrogating a man by the name of Snow (GUY PEARCE) who's been accused of both murder and espionage. Snow's snarky attitude and lack of respect doesn't earn him any favors in Langral's eyes, but CIA agent Shaw (LENNIE JAMES) thinks they could use Snow to infiltrate the outer space prison, find and then rescue Emilie.

Snow isn't keen on the idea, but since his friend Mace (TIM PLESTER) is also somewhere on the prison station and knows the whereabouts of a briefcase that could prove his innocence, the accused man agrees. From that point on, he must not only contend with freeing Emilie -- and her instant dislike of him -- but also Hydell whose near psychotic mindset means danger could be around every corner.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Sometimes when I watch movies, I wonder -- nay -- I wish that the characters had a working knowledge of those who preceded them up on the screen. That would prevent them from making the same or similar mistakes of their predecessors. For instance, had the President of the United States character in "Lockout" been familiar with "Escape from New York," he would have known that first family members and extravagant prison ideas don't make a good mix.

If you're not familiar with that 1981 film starring Kurt Russell, the gist was that Manhattan was turned into a walled federal prison (in the dystopian future of, gasp, 1997) and the President's plane ends up crashing there. He's taken prisoner and it's up to Russell's character, a convict, to infiltrate the place and rescue POTUS. Oh, and there's a clock ticking down to a literally explosive finale should said rescue not occur in the pre-set amount of time.

In this latest sci-fi based action flick, a maximum security prison has been built and put into operation in Earth's orbit. Its location and the fact that the prisoners are kept in suspended animation would seem to make the place foolproof. But that's before the President's adult daughter decides to visit the place and investigate allegations of abuse.

Before you can shout "Snake Plissken!" she's taken hostage, thus necessitating that a criminal (okay, someone who's been accused of some crimes) be sent there to infiltrate the place and rescue her, all before the station comes crashing back down to Earth.

Yeah, I know what you're going to say. Few films are original nowadays, and at least this isn't a straight-out remake of John Carpenter's 15-year-old flick. But if you're gonna take a familiar idea, at least make it exciting and entertaining. It's not that the filmmakers -- directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger, who work from a script they penned with Luc Besson -- don't give it the old college try, with plenty of action, special effects and such offered up.

It's that it's not put together that well, the pacing is off, the rapid fire editing gives the impression that chunks of footage were left on the cutting room floor, and most everyone else didn't bring as much game to the project as do leads Guy Pearce and Maggie Grace.

Granted, the characters they play and their associated characteristics are similarly far from original. How many times have we see the headstrong woman rescued by a man only to become irritated by the fact that he's not impressed by her or her status, demonstrated by his physical and verbal treatment of her? Even so, the two performers do that act fairly well here, especially as compared to what surrounds them.

And that's a standard issue, rescue-based action pic, complete with head villain (Vincent Regan), his psycho sidekick (Joseph Gilgun), and a slew of unnamed backup characters at their -- and the filmmakers -- disposal. There are also the authority figure officials back at headquarters (Lennie James and a wasted Peter Stormare) who try to help the unwilling hero succeed. While there's plenty of fighting and shooting on-scene, and various bits of planning and yakking off-site, little to none of it's handled in a way to get us excited, worried or caught up in any other emotional way about the outcome.

None of which is meant to say this is awful, despite some glaring lapses in logic from time to time. It's just that so much of it never rises above mediocrity that even right now, just a few days after our press screening, I'm having a difficult time recalling any exciting details, plot points or character attributes that stood out enough to grab my attention and thus be memorable. It certainly doesn't help that some of the editing, especially in early flashback scenes that set up the -- yawn -- mystery of what really happened to the hero before our story starts, makes a frenetic video game look like a static, lock-down camera shot in comparison.

Even so, Pearce, Grace and their back-and-forth banter marginally make this offering bearable, even if their eventual return to Earth has to be the fastest reentry that doesn't involve a "Star Trek" transporter beam. Had the story and filmmaking been better and if we would have been given some reason to know and care more about the characters, I might not have minded. As it stands, "Lockout" is too derivative, slapdash and uninvolving to be any kind of memorable. It rates as a 4 out of 10.




Reviewed April 10, 2012 / Posted April 13, 2012


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