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Thursday, April 26, 2012 01:43 pm

Pearce wisecracks his way out of Lockout

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Though the credits in Lockout assure us that it is “based on an original idea by Luc Besson,” those with a rudimentary knowledge of genre filmmaking will immediately recognize its premise as a knockoff of Escape from New York. I think that the director of that film, John Carpenter, could sue to get at least a partial story credit if he so desired.

But since he often stole, or as they say, “paid homage,” from many other films as well (Rio Bravo = Assault on Precinct 13), I have a feeling Carpenter would be happy enough to see this variation on his theme. After all, that is the very nature of B-movies, which Lockout most assuredly is, as they often take proven concepts and do them cheaply and on the fly. To be sure, this actioner, as directed by James Mather and Stephen St. Leger, does what films of this sort should. Logic is a fatality in the name of keeping the story moving at a breakneck pace.

As the film opens, smart aleck par excellence CIA Agent Snow (Guy Pearce) is taking a beating at the hands of one of the minions of U.S. Director of Security Langral (Peter Stormare). Seems our beleaguered anti-hero is accused of killing a fellow agent and knows the whereabouts of a briefcase that contains…something really, really important. To cut to the chase, and the film wisely employs this tactic often, Snow won’t cooperate, and is being prepped to be shipped out to MS 1, a maximum security prison that orbits the earth and houses 500 of the worst of the worst of society. Wouldn’t you know it, the president’s daughter Emilie (Maggie Grace) just happens to be there, assessing conditions on the interstellar lockup when an uprising ensues. Guess who gets an offer he can’t refuse if he agrees to rescue her?

Shot quickly in Serbia, Roger Corman would be proud to call this film his own, what with the cheap computer animation used in its opening sequences. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear its frantic motorcycle chase was done on a TRS 80 or Commodore 64. Thankfully, the effects and production values used to bring MS 1 to life are much better as Snow and Emilie crawl, climb and run through various air ducts, narrow passages and command centers.

The principals all do their jobs well, hitting their marks, saying their lines and striking just enough of a serious pose to prevent this exercise from devolving into camp. Pearce is an odd case. When looking at his filmography, L.A. Confidential, Memento and The Proposition jump out at you as movies any actor would be proud to have on his or her resume. Then, you see The Time Machine, Bedtime Stories and Seeking Justice as well and you can’t help but wonder if there’s some sort of Jekyll and Hyde dynamic at work. Lockout falls somewhere in between those two groups – no classic but a painless and sometimes fun timewaster that allows us to see that Pearce has not only been working on his sardonic delivery but has been hitting the gym as well.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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