Working from a script co-written by Luc Besson, directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger have made a movie that’s a blatantly derivative laundry list of earlier sci-fi and action movies, and with these references boiled down to their silliest, most basic elements. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and the film is perfectly content to be exactly the kind of stupid, goofy beat ‘em up you’d expect. Looking at Lockout as just a piece of pulp entertainment, the film is enjoyable schlock, even if it never quite goes full bore into becoming the goofy, absurd and wholly ridiculous action movie it seemed destined to turn into.
Guy Pearce plays Snow, a former CIA operative living in the year 2079, and he’s fittingly gruff, wise-cracking (he speaks entirely in one-liners) and offensive (his T-shirt literally tells us this). After being fingered for the murder of his best friend, Snow is coerced into saving the president’s daughter (Maggie Grace), who has been abducted by escaped prisoners aboard a maximum-security prison orbiting in space. We have a pair of brothers as the film’s antagonists (Vincent Regan, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Joseph Gilgun, Harry Brown), and a stolen briefcase full of sensitive government information that only seems to exist in order to drive the plot forward. That’s essentially all there is to the movie.
Most of the runtime is spent aping Escape From New York (1981) and making little-to-no sense. This is actually a perfectly acceptable approach for this type of movie, even if there’s the sense that Lockout wants to be cooler and more respectable as a genre film than it actually is. In fact, it actually helps the movie that there’s never any sense of cinematic self-awareness. If you’re a fan of ridiculous, often dumb cinema, then Lockout is your movie.
It’s also an extremely gratuitous film. I don’t mean this in terms of gore or violence, but rather in the needlessly overstuffed plot, from pointless flashbacks to space battles that seem to be there just to look cool. The film is a Gordian knot of nonsensical plot points and set pieces. These just pile up on one another, and they’re topped off with a lot of truly hokey-looking CGI. If you’re a fan of alcohol poisoning, there’s probably quite a drinking game to be created by taking a gulp at everything in Lockout that simply does not make sense. I thought about naming them all, but then realized the list would be longer than the review. This is a film with a police station in space, presumably built to handle all of the space crime we’ll suffer from in the future.
As dumb as Lockout is, it never goes quite far enough in the realm of enjoyably stupid to completely work. Its climax and final wrap-up scenes end in convenient—and obviously not thought-out—ways. It needed something just a bit more ridiculous to seal the deal, but it never seemed to find it. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and language including some sexual references.