Lockout

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Cinema as we know it is well over a hundred years old at this point so the recycling of existing ideas is all but accepted at this point. In fact, its inevitable that variation of similar characters and scenarios keep popping up from time to time, but that doesn’t excuse the genuinely stunning act of cinematic plagiarism performed by producer/co-writer Luc Besson after trying to sneak this obvious Escape From New York rip off under the radar back in 2012.
It wasn’t just a surface level thing either, with the plot of Guy Pierce’s deeply sarcastic anti-hero striving to evade prison time by trying to save the President’s daughter from the futuristic jail break she’s found herself in the middle of resembling not only Carpenter’s movie and it’s sequel so much, it also seemed weirdly reminiscent of a third, unmade Plissken adventure tentatively titled Escape From Earth. Lawyers where deployed and Lockout got its rightful spanking in court, but now that the litigious dust has long since settled, is this action sci-fi really that bad?

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It’s 2079 and deeply cynical CIA agent Snow is framed for murder after his case involving a mole hunt ends up with an undercover agent dead and a metaphorical smoking gun in Snow’s hand. After getting arrested after managing to smuggle the evidence away, Snow’s next stop may very well be MS One, a controversial orbiting prison where criminals are put in stasis for the duration of their sentences, but Snow’s abysmal run of luck is about to change – sort of – when a visit to the maximum security satellite by First Daughter, Emilie Warnock, goes horribly Pete Tong.
Emilie is there on a visit to ascertain whether the reports of this line of imprisonment are inhumane and that prolonged statis can cause dementia among some inmates, but even so, defrosting derranged, scottish serial rapist, Hydell, wasn’t probably the best idea. Hydell manages to swipe a gun off an unprepared secret service agent, shoot himself free and manages to defrost all the prisoners, including his older brother Alex, who takes charge of this space riot. Luckily, even though these guys are smart enough to take the prison, politics aren’t exactly their forte and they state their demands without a single clue that they have the President’s daughter standing right there and so the powers that be send Snow on a rescue mission to rescue her before they blow the prison to hell.
So Snow attempts to accomplish his mission armed with gadgets, a withering one liner for every occasion and a smoking habit that would make a young Dennis Leary wheeze like Darth Vader, but things stubbonly refuse to go smoothly as he realises that the key to proving his innocence may also be on board a space station that’s going to come back to earth the hard way in a matter of hours.

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When I first saw this movie back in the day I remember getting progressively angrier the longer it went on, not only because I’m a devoted fan of Carpenter’s 1981 classic, but it seemed incredibly insulting that the filmmakers really didn’t seem to think anyone would notice. I’m sure that at the time the “homage” card was metaphorically slapped on the table but to be honest, the only way Lockout could have been more obvious would have been to slap on a shaggy wig and an eye patch onto Pierce and just name him “Fake” Plissken.
Maybe things wouldn’t have been quite so offensive if Lockout had been a good rip off, but unfortunately a dependable cast doggedly chips away at leaden one liners and risable exposition while forgettable action sequences fail to ignite around them. Guy Pierce has almost no dialogue whatsoever that doesn’t include a sarcastic retort (mostly about fucking people’s wives), which, while initially amusing, soon wears incredibly thin because instead of making him seem like an edgy hero who flounts the rules, he just seems like a smug prick. Due to Pierce’s character not having anything to add beyond shooting, running and spitting out dry wittiticms like “I’d rather castrate myself with blunt rocks.”, Lost’s Maggie Grace is saddled with being the straight man, sucking up leg wounds, threats of rape and lifeless banter with her co-lead that goes as far as him punching her full in the face in order to give her gender flipping disguise a hint of authenticity (to be fair, he only sees her hair black so she probably needed it). While I’m assuming gags like this are there to try and harness the mean-spirited unpredictability of the 80’s, it simply doesn’t have the charm to pull it off the way that, say, Shane Black could and just comes across as randomly stupid and needlessly cruel.

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Elsewhere, filling the void of henchman, is Joseph Gilgun who is best known for similarly deranged performances in Misfits and Preacher and brings that same unhinged angry here, drooling out lines like “Don’t lie to me man, I’ll eat your brain!” in the thick, terrifying brogue of a wide-eyed Glaswegian crack addict bothering you for change at a bus stop. However, while Gilgun is by far the most entertaining thing here, his saliva spraying nutter ends up being so crazy, the script ultimately has him being even more of a liability to the bad guys (led by an utterly overshadowed Vincent Regan as his brother) that Snow is and despite he endless killing and promises to sexually debase Emilie at any given opportunity, he’s not even given a well deserved on-screen death for us to savour.
All that’s left for us to trawl through after this parade of unlikable characters and dull, samey action is some wince inducing CGI (an early street chase gives Torque and Ultraviolet a run for their money for worst computer generated vehicle pursuit in history) and a find-the-mole subplot that’s so poorly thought out, the movie feels it has to walk you through it for about 10 minutes after the actual plot has finished.

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In fact, even for such an exploitative producer/writer as Besson (remember, he’s been behind a parkour action movie for crying out loud), it’s confusing that even he would waste on such time, effort or money on turfing something out so obviously derivative without making sure it had at least something to justify its existence, but Lockdown remains a pointless exercise that even makes the impressively shakey Escape From LA look like Terminator frickin’ 2.
Think less Plissken – more piss-take.

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