Saturday, July 14, 2012

In short: Lockout (2012)

A few decades into the future, the US - clearly not in a financial crisis - have opened a stasis prison in a space station orbiting Earth, with little regard for the fact that the dry-freezing process does not exactly improve the prisoners' mental health.

When the President's daughter Emilie (Maggie Grace, now making a career of being the kidnap victim in Europacorp productions) visits the station following her personal agenda of being the conscience of her Daddy (Peter Hudson), a series of coincidences leads to a real space prison break. Emilie becomes one of the hostages of the prisoners' leader Alex (Vincent Regan), and though the prisoners don't know it yet, it's only a question of time until they find out they've hit the hostage jackpot.

With such a high level meat shield, a frontal assault on the station is quite out of the question, so Secret Service boss Langral (Peter Stormare) sends in one of his former agents who was just about to be freeze-dried himself for stealing state secrets. That agent, a certain Snow (Guy Pearce), may just be one of the most unpleasant smart asses ever to take the lead in an action movie, so it comes as not much of a surprise somebody has framed him for the deed. Still, even threatened with thirty years in a freezer, Snow wouldn't agree to the job if not for the fact that the only man who could exonerate him is on the prison station. As it stands, saving the President's daughter and seeing a man about a suitcase could be profitably combined.

If there is such a thing as a typical Europacorp production, James Mather's and Stephen St. Leger's Lockout might be it. There's the cast of half a dozen character actors and one pretty woman centring around a Hollywood star who has seen better days, the slick perfection of the action, and the utter idiocy of a script that continues Luc Besson's fight against his old enemies: logic, probability and the laws of physics.

As nearly always in a Europacorp production, the whole plot hinges on a series of coincidences and on the fact that all the film's supposedly highly competent characters act like idiots in everything they do; the world building, while providing some moments of semi-cool (it's Die Hard in a space prison, after all), suffers from inconsistencies so obvious even I can see them. Also, Luc, that is not how space stations work.

One would hope that Besson's hatred of the laws of physics would at least be used to set up more than just one gravity defying action scene, but Lockout seems hell-bent on wasting most of the opportunities taking place in a fucking space station full of mad men provides.

This does not necessarily mean that the film's a total wash. Lockout is at least well paced and has more than enough scenes of people shooting each other (inside a space station, yes), running away, and crawling through the ever popular whatever-they're-for shafts to be mildly diverting, especially since I at least can't blame the directors for making a slow film. Plus, the film does give Grace slightly more agency than its basic plot would let one expect.

Unfortunately, the action is never quite fast and exciting enough to let one overlook the lack of charisma Pearce has as an action hero, nor the basic stupidity of everything happening in the movie; there's never a moment that is awesome enough to just let one drop one's scepticism towards what's going and think "wow". While the action is competent, it's never truly gripping, leaving Lockout a film that's vaguely diverting yet also instantly forgettable.

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