Guy Pearce tries his hardest to play Kurt Russell’s legendary Snake Plissken in James Mather and Stephen St. Leger’s Lockout. Unfortunately the film has severe issues establishing and keeping the same tone. One second it’s a cheesy action film with passable CG and up-close action sequences and the next it’s a semi-confusing game of betrayal, with one pointless twist after another. Lockout would have been fine being one or the other, but trying to be both is a beginners mistake and hopefully Mather/Leger learn from this.
Snow (Guy Pearce) is for a lack of a better term a badass. He’s the go-to guy for the country of America when it comes to getting important people out of highly dangerous areas. For example, the president’s daughter Emilie (Maggie Grace) is on a space station that houses the world’s deadliest criminals. What is she doing up there? She’s trying to make a difference in the world by proving details about the dangerous side effects from deep sleep for long periods of time.
Something goes horribly wrong and the prisoners are woken up and free to wreak havoc on the station and its innocent workers. Snow recently has gotten himself into trouble with the law and a deal is struck allowing him freedom in exchange for rescuing the president’s daughter. Like most badasses he initially shrugs the deal off because of all the work he’d have to put in, but he eventually comes around to the offer, because an important person that is key to his innocence is on-board the station.
Lockout starts out fast and violent and is actually kind of entertaining for ten or twenty minutes, but then it bogs itself down quicker than you can say snowflakes. Directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger swap out the video game camera cuts and comic-book styled CGI for a flimsy story of corruption and backstabbing. They lose focus on what makes Snow so much fun to watch and they don’t seem to realize it, because Pearce continues to spurt out offensive gestures and one-liners. His basic primal ass-kicking instincts are intact, but he’s suddenly forced to give two shits about everyone else on screen and that just doesn’t work.
Five nameless characters are given too much screen time and Lockout abruptly changes gears and becomes an actionless escape movie that starts relying on Pearce’s comedic chops to carry the weight of the film.
Pearce is a funny and more than likable guy, but the wise-cracking badass character doesn’t work if he isn’t given evenly slotted intervals to show his ass-kicking skills. You can’t even blame the PG-13 rating, because there were plenty of opportunities for off-camera deaths or creative kills that didn’t need blood splatter or decapitation.
It’s just too bad because Pearce fully embodies Snow. He’s just as much an ass-kicker as Kurt Russell; he’s just not given any space to show off all of his skills.
I think the blame rests on Mather and Leger, who’ve mostly directed shorts before this. They just don’t know what to do with what they’ve got. There’s a ripe space setting that’s dying to be explored, plus a character that’s just as tough and mean as most cookie-cutter bad guys, yet they stick to dialogue that mostly doesn’t make sense and feels like it was read aloud alone while looking into a mirror. Their camera work is steady and positioned, but the two need to focus on pacing and writing, because Lockout is a painfully slow watch and it’s only 95 minutes long.
There’s a shell for a good movie buried at the root of the production, but Mather and Leger must not know how to properly build from that and make an action film that contains scenes that involve shooting and fighting for more than two minutes.
Lockout – 6.5/10