Sneaking into cinemas without the fanfare that it rightly deserves is Lockout. Now, many films with a credit for Luc Besson have been sheer brain poison over the last few years and almost register on the "shit film" scale – up there with Wes Craven Presents or From The Mind/Pen/Bin of Stephen King/Clive Barker/George A Romero – but this gives all cinema-goers some hope that not everything these days with a Besson connection is utter tat (Taken is the only film that truly escapes the taint).
What’s his involvement here? He had the original idea, according to the paperwork, and also exec produced it. That idea is not the most original but it is huge fun and well worth your time, money and attention. Lockout is not the most original film you will see this year, and it’s not a game changer either, but the sum of the familiar parts work very nicely and still space walk all over many films hitting cinemas these days.
Pearce plays ex-CIA agent Snow, framed for a crime he didn’t commit and given one last chance to potentially redeem himself by rescuing the US president's daughter from a prison ship in space – otherwise he gets sent there himself with no hope of parole. No prizes for guessing what he chooses to do, especially when he’s referred to as a "loose cannon". You know right from the off here that this film will be riddled with clichés – the only thing you don’t know is if those shackles will find it playing the bitch in Hollywood’s space prison showers or whether it’ll be the boss.
What is also clear from the very beginning is that Snow is a smart-arse and is going to be wisecracking his way through the proceedings, which will either be endearing or supremely annoying. For me, I loved it and even though it was riddled with clichés again, that hammy, almost campy appoach really tickled me. Snow is part Captain Jack Sparrow, part Snake Plissken, part John McClane and part John Wayne, with a smattering of Martin Riggs and some James Bond sexual punnery thrown in. As a result, what you get is a Die Hard meets Escape From New York hybrid, but if we’re really honest with ourselves that’s not a problem – they are all great movies which I would happily rewatch.
Pearce is likable, and Grace is affable enough as the First Daughter, although she doesn’t get much to play with script-wise and is basically there just to look hot and kick/shoot at some ass when she has to. There are occasions where the interaction between her and Snow touches on Romancing The Stone-style shenanigans, but it stays the right side of twee and the "but they really fancy each other" schtick is not overpowering. So the heroes are solid enough, but the show is stolen in many set pieces brilliantly played by Joseph "Who?" Gilgun, who really pulls a meaty space mentalist performance out of the bag as Hydell. Properly off the hinges, he really does give an unsettlingly realistic turn as a threatening loon who, if he wasn’t in space prison, would be in a park somewhere pissed up on cheap cider, smelling of wee, bleeding from a fight (probably with a tree or a bin) and swearing at pigeons while waving his penis around at passers-by like a fleshy sparkler. It’ll also rank up there with campy screen wackos such as Con Air’s Cyrus "The Virus" Grissom and American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman.
The rest of the baddies and the supporting cast in this futuristic yet strangely 90s feeling romp do a good job and keep it rattling along at a decent pace and with enough twists or set pieces to keep it interesting. The action set pieces are generally quite non-epic, but that actually works in their favour as it keeps the film grounded in some sort of reality rather than making it a huge blockbuster. Where those involved do perhaps fall short is when they do try to "do blockbuster" and the CGI effects simply don’t cut the mustard looking cheap, messy and not quite finished, but overall fare more fake than anything else on screen here. Yes, motorbike chase sequence ... I am looking at YOU! A cheesy but fun script and general feeling of people having fun while getting down to business make Lockout more fun than it probably has a right to be and a bloody good fun film that proves Guy Pearce can do a John McClane very well. Expect more Pearce action films ... no, DEMAND them!