Guy Pearce as Snow
Maggie Grace as Emilie Warnock
Vincent Regan as Alex
Joseph Gilgun as Hydell
Lennie James as Shaw
Peter Stormare as Langral
Jacky Ido as Hock
Tim Plester as Mace
Mark Tankersley as Barnes
Anne-Solenne Hatte as Kathryn
Peter Hudson as President Warnock
Bojan Peric as LOPD Technician 1
Evan Moses II as LOPD Technician 2
Directed by James Mather, Stephen St. Leger
Accused of murdering an agent leaking government secrets before stealing them, Snow (Guy Pearce) is sent off to the space station prison MS One where prisoners are kept in stasis to avoid the normal prison tensions. It just so happens that the President’s daughter Emilie (Maggie Grace) has been kidnapped when the convicts on MS One escaped, so the CIA calls upon Snow to help them rescue her.
At this point, some might think they know what to expect from a Luc Besson movie, which is odd considering that his latest production comes out the same week as Besson’s own new movie “The Lady,” but teaming with Irish filmmakers James Mather and Stephen St. Leger, he has created a prison break movie in outer space. Granted, that may sound like an amalgam of other movies, but those ready to write it off for wearing its influences on its sleeve may be surprised by the fun and entertaining results.
Opening with Guy Pearce’s wisecracking Snow being violently interrogated by a CIA agent looking for a stolen briefcase containing government secrets, he is convicted for the murder of a friend and sentenced to serve time on MS One, a space station prison where the inmates are frozen in stasis. It just so happens that the President’s daughter Emilie (Maggie Grace) has been there to investigate the conditions and been systematically kidnapped by psychotic inmates during a prison break. Snow agrees to work with the CIA to secretly board MS One to rescue Emilie but also to find his friend Mace who knows where to find the briefcase.
“Lockout” is very much a ’90s throwback, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it takes some of the things that worked so well in action movies like “Die Hard” and installs them into the type of world building that makes science fiction such a rich genre. It does take some time to get going because some of set-up stuff feels like something familiar, but once Snow gets to MS One, things get far more interesting.
Guy Pearce delivers snarky one-liners like the best of them at such a rapid pace you might leave the movie wishing that he would take over for Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool. He’s not the typical action hero, able to defy all odds and get through every fight without a scratch or a hair out of place, and he really gets quite beaten up over the course of infiltrating the space station. The film elevates to another level of fun when Snow and Emilie come together on MS One and we get the sort of sexually tense rapport, more influenced by Willis’ run on “Moonlighting,” giving you even more reasons to want to see them get through this situation alive.
The Scottish baddies in charge of the prison break, the psychotic Hydell (Joseph Gilgun) and his more level-headed brother Alex (Vincent Regan), offer just the right degree of menace while delivering enough scenery-chewing to fit the mold of ’90s action movie baddie.
While Luc Besson co-wrote and produced the film, “Lockout” is really more of a showcase for the talents of Mather and St. Leger, who create moodily-lit environments reminiscent of the early work of Ridley Scott, filling them with action setpieces as impressive as other Besson-produced movies. It’s more impressive what they do with a presumably modest budget compared to what an American studio movie might cost, an early high-speed futuristic freeway chase giving us some idea of the big production values. Once the story moves into space, we get the CG-heavy space stations and even a few starships that would do George Lucas proud.
Sure, the movie may be predictable at times, especially if you’re even remotely familiar with its primary influences. It also tends to be way overscored with non-stop music, but it does offer a satisfying epilogue that ties the various elements together and resolves the framing device introduced at the opening.
The Bottom Line:
An entertaining marriage of “Die Hard” meets “Blade Runner,” showing off the talents of two terrific filmmakers and introducing the world to Guy Pearce as action hero, “Lockout” is a surprisingly workable ’90s throwback that delivers on far more levels than other such attempts.