Lockout leaves the door open

It's got superficial satisfaction but fails to deliver on potential.

Twenty minutes into action-thriller Lockout, some viewers may wonder why the title didn’t include the phrase “Escape from _____” at some point. More cynical moviegoers may question why they had yet to escape from the theaters.

Guy Pearce stars as Snow, a smartass, hardass, ex-CIA badass framed for murder in 2079. During the course of his interrogation by Langral (Peter Stormare), he asks incredulously if he is really “being beat up by a guy named Rupert.” Apparently due process is a thing of the past and Snow is sentenced to MS-One, a super-max prison in space.

Meanwhile, Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace), daughter to the president, is ON MS-One conducting research into the welfare of the inmates kept in stasis. Thanks to Hock, (Jacky Ido as the most inept Secret Service agent ever), Hydell (Joseph Gilgun), the convict she interviews gets free, gets a gun and gets to shoot her in the leg. Suddenly, he and his brother Alex (Vincent Regan) are running the show. In the ensuing predictability, Snow is sent on a rescue mission to save the First Daughter before her captors realize just how precious one of their hostages really is. That’s if the prison doesn’t plummet back to Earth first.

Lockout seems like the answer to someone asking, “What if Snake Plissken had been in Con Air instead of Cameron Poe?” It’s been done before and it’s been done better. With that having been said, it is still entertaining to see Pearce deadpan wisecracks whilst kicking a ton of ass. You’ve got to love a character that can do as much damage spitting a one-liner as he can throwing a one-two combination. Grace shows a little fire (unintended or pun-intended?) as the bratty Daughter-in-Chief. Gilgun and Regan are competent enough baddies and Stormare suffices as the bureaucratic stooge.

Lockout was conceived and penned by prolific hit-or-miss writer Luc Besson, who gave us The Professional and Taken but is also responsible for guilty pleasures like The Fifth Element and From Paris with Love. This film is more in line with the latter two. As Lockout does manage to entertain, one wonders what could have been had the project been taken a bit more seriously.

There’s a reason you’ve never heard of directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger — they’re both new to helming a film (which is apparent). But Mather’s background as a cinematographer does offer some slick production value. One thing that often bothers me about futuristic fare such as this is the unbalanced use of technology. You have a fleet of starfighters holding vigil over a space prison that’s been overtaken by convicts, one of whom wields a revolver. Really? A movie that features voice-activated explosives and the guy is using a wheel gun? Sigh.

Expect a decent night out but don’t expect anything amazing from Lockout. You’ll be entertained by this pre-summer popcorn fare and then forget all about it, save for a memorable quip or two.