Lockout begins with Guy Pearce being punched in the face. He’s playing an operative named Snow and he’s unfazed by the blood dripping down his face. He’s rewarded for each of his witty retorts with another punch, but he keeps right on quipping, keeps right on taking those punches. Lockout is that kind of action movie.
With a genius performance Guy Pearce creates one of the most memorable action heroes since John McClane, unfortunately he’s wasted on a mediocre prison break movie that just happens to be set in outer space. This could have been the next Escape from New York, Snow is everything you’d want in a modern day Snake Plissken, but for most of its running time Lockout as a movie never musters up the energy necessary to match its dynamic lead character.
It doesn’t matter, see it anyway.
The plot involves a maximum security prison floating in near Earth orbit. Why keep a prison outside our atmosphere? It’s not to keep the inmates in check since all the prisoners are kept unconcious. That’s really the biggest problem with Lockout, it’s set in outer space for no real reason other than that someone thought that might be fun. It doesn’t make much sense but, I guess they were right, it is.
The prisoners find a way to become conscious and quickly take over their maximum security space station. As luck would have it, their prison takeover coincides with an inspection by the president’s daughter (Maggie Grace) and she’s quickly taken hostage. To get her out they’ll need the craziest badass planet Earth has to offer, and as we’ve learned by watching a guy named Rupert punch him in the face, that’s definitely Snow.
Watching Pearce insult, mock, and blow up everyone who gets in his way is a delight. Worth the price of admission. But as an action movie sometimes Lockout doesn’t quite seem to know just what level it’s supposed to work at. Some of it moves so blazingly fast that it’s almost impossible to follow what’s going on. A high-speed chase on Earth is reduced to a series of random blurs, probably to hide bad computer generated FX, but whatever the reason it’s a mess. Up on the space station things move slower and seem to boil down to a lot of skulking around in air ducts. I really wish action movies would figure out something to use besides air ducts.
Pearce is electric and the outer space elements, when they’re moving at a reasonable speed, add an admittedly unnecessary but entirely fun secondary level to what’s going on. With a little work maybe this could have been the next Demolition Man, instead it’s another forgettable, mid-level action movie with an unforgettable character who keeps getting punched, and then gets back up to quip again.