BR: Lockout (2012)

July 16, 2012 | By

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Film: Good/ BR Transfer: Excellent/ BR Extras: Excellent

Label: Alliance (Canada)/ Region: A / Released: July 17, 2012

Genre: Science-Fiction

Synopsis: A disgraced government agent is the only man available to rescue the U.S. President’s daughter from an orbiting penal colony gone rogue.

Special Features: (none)

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Review:

As an executive producer, Luc Besson has developed a string of high concept stories with promising hooks that often fall far short of their goal to fully entertain, and Lockout, a blatant (yet wholly workable) riff on John Carpenter’s Escape from New York (1982) set in Earth’s orbit unfortunately isn’t much different than Besson’s prior efforts like District 13 (2004).

The problem with Besson lies in his decision to keep each film within a strange cartoon realm where Tex Avery, graphic novel grimness, and genre tropes are folded together without much attention towards character development and plot logic. In most cases, things jump ahead not for stylistic reasons or narrative efficiency, but a lack of interest and a need to get to the end fast.

Basic plot: after being wrongly convicted of murdering a fellow government agent, Snow (buffed Guy Pearce) must rescue the U.S. President’s daughter Emilie Warnock (Taken’s Maggie Grace, finally looking like an adult) from an orbiting penal freezer before she’s either killed by the reawakened prisoners or the structure’s slow orbital decline towards Earth.

After setting up the location, characters, and main conflicts between Snow, Emilie, and lead thugs Alex (Vincent Regan) and Hydell (scene stealer and seriously uglified Joseph Gilgun), the writers toss in a hastily rendered spaceship battle, and the film ends with massive plot holes in the final 10 minutes, including Snow & Emilie’s preposterously fast freefall into Earth’s orbit, and the kind of fast wrap-up Besson treats with perfunctory indifference.

Most of Besson’s Eurocorp  films tend to revel in a grand opening sequence, kinetic action set-pieces, and cartoonish / absurdist repartee between his anti-heroes, and the latter is definitely Lockout’s best element. Pearce delivers flat lines with a great dose of grimy contempt (particularly the opening interrogation scene that’s all Daffy Duck, as Snow gets bashed in the head like a floor-mounted punching bag), and any tension is put on pause just long enough for a moment of pure ridiculousness.  (Quips Snow to Emilie before separating from his precious target, ‘Here’s an apple and here’s a gun. Now go rescue yourself.’).

The hasty finale, though, manages to virtually kill most of the film’s fun factor. There’s no doubt the production was shot fast within a low budget: although the design of a motorcycle chase is a small homage to Tron (1982), the final execution is so scattershot, there was no need to include it in the film whatsoever; it would’ve made more sense to have the unbreakable Snow take a train to the subway station to avoid cheating audiences with a poor highway chase.

Writer-directors James Mather (who also functioned as cinematographer) and Stephen St. Leger had previously directed the slick short action film Prey Alone (2004), in which an investigating government officer attempts to glean information from a prison suspect to catch an unidentified, ultra-violent felon. The filmmakers managed to extract a lot of production value using in-house effects, and there are stylistic similarities between the short and Lockout, including a flippant sense of humour in a prisoner interrogation scene, and the discovery of a secret code.

In an ideal world, the Lockout BR would come with filmmaker commentary and Prey Alone so the filmmakers could describe their career paths from short film to feature debut under the wings of Besson, but the extras are sparse, if not non-existent, depending on which edition. Sony’s U.S. ‘unrated’ disc features a pair of making-of featurettes (“Breaking into Lockout” + “A Vision of the Future”) whereas Alliance’s Canadian disc is a bare bones edition, albeit larded with trailers.

As it stands, Mather and St. Leger’s space prison thriller is a mostly decent B-movie; audiences just have to bear with a hasty finale that’s less the result of novice filmmakers, and more the responsibility of an executive producer who should’ve ensured the final product was balanced in every part.

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© 2012 Mark R. Hasan

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External References:

IMDB Film WebsiteComposer Filmography

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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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