High Concept cinema has seemed like a thing of the past in recent years. Instead of Con Air, The Rock and any number of Joel Silver-produced action movies, we’ve been treated to the thinking man’s action-thriller of Jason Bourne or Christopher Nolan’s Batman and Inception. As great as action movies have become there is still a demand, indeed a yearning, for mindless thrills. The kind of action that ’90s cinema was built and, indeed, thrived on. You know? Where men are men, women are gorgeous with a hint of sass about them and the action is so stupidly over-the-top it has you smiling with joy rather than biting your nails in terror. Thank the cinematic gods then forLockout; the very definition of mindless entertainment.
Set in the near future, Snow (Guy Pearce), a former CIA agent, is wrongly accused espionage, of selling US secrets to an unknown buyer. Meanwhile, above the Earth’s atmosphere, the President’s daughter Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace) is visiting MS-One, a maximum security prison where all the inmates are kept in stasis. Of course, this being the movies, nothing goes swimmingly and before long the inmates have broken free taking Emilie hostage. At first Snow declines the offer to be the heroic type and rescue Emilie but when he learns that aboard the station is a man who can help clear his name he reluctantly agrees to launch into space.
If it all sounds a little John Carpenter’s Escape From New York, that’s exactly what it is but set in space. Be honest, set any movie in space it’s going to be that much more appealing to the masses. Black Swan in space? Yes please. Suffice to say the villains here are one-dimensional psychopaths (and, for the most part, surprisingly Scottish), the action slightly confused and the plot just apparent enough to demand the attention span of a 13-year-old. But throw into the mix Guy Pearce’s Snow and enough bickering flirtation with Grace’s Emilie and it’s endlessly enjoyable.
Snow is a typically gruff, foul-mouth protagonist. Quick with his wit and quicker with his fists, he is the kind of creation that Lethal Weapon-writer Shane Blackmade a career out of in the ’90s. In fact, Snow is so dry with his one-liners, you assume the producers approached Bruce Willis only for the response to come; “I’m too old for that sh*t”.
It helps that this is all from the mind of Luc Besson. The man behind Leon and The Fifth Element knows how to conjure a riveting premise. Crucially, Besson has hired writer-director team James Mather and John St. Leger. The pair, making their feature debut, having made an impressive name for themselves on YouTube sensation Prey Alone. As with their short film, the pair know how to keep things running at breakneck speed. It’s often a case of squinting through the endless bombardment of pixels and slightly clunky setpieces.
Joseph Gilgun, best known for his role in TV’s Misfits, is having enough fun for an army of maniacal villains. As MS-One’s resident bug-eyed psychopath he’s one of those bad guys who is so revolting, the more sadistic viewer will want him to win. Grace manages to tread a fine line between being eye candy-cum-damsel in distress and being the best platform for which to have Snow bounce off. Sometimes literally. But it is Pearce’s Snow who makes Lockout a knockout. He’s got more charisma than Kurt Russell’s Snake Plisskin and feels less sorry for himself than Bruce Willis’ John McClane. He’s glib, he’s rude and he’s probably the last person you want at a party but in an action film aboard a space-prison he’s the ultimate badass. Hell the man even wears a T-shirt that says ‘Warning: Offensive’. If that isn’t wearing your personality on your chest, what is?
Lockout won’t challenge you mentality but it will speak to the inner child in you while allowing you to indulge a more adult sensibility. Lockout is the kind of film that people pretend not to like but, deep down, cannot get enough of. And there’s nothing wrong with that.