Lackluster ‘Lockout’ Fails to Blast Off

What is outer space like? Just ask any American criminal.

In 2079, all high-risk male criminals are held in an outer space maximum-security prison known as MS-1, where they are cryo-frozen and kept in stasis. At least, this is the 2079 envisioned in writer Luc Besson’s (“Taken”) new action film “Lockout.”

“Lockout” follows ex-CIA operative Snow (Guy Pearce, “The King’s Speech”), who, falsely accused of murder and treason, faces a lifetime sentence on MS-1. His partner and friend Mace (Tim Plester, “Kick-Ass”) is the only person capable of absolving him, but Mace has disappeared.
Snow’s last opportunity for freedom arises when a group of insane, rioting convicts hijack MS-1 and hold the president’s daughter Emilie (Maggie Grace, “Twilight: Breaking Dawn”) hostage. When Snow learns that his Mace is also incarcerated at MS-1, he adds finding his friend to his already life-threatening agenda.

True to its genre, “Lockout” delivers action-packed scenes filled with explosions, futuristic gadgets and the good guys racing against the clock. On the surface, the movie seems to mimic 2008’s “Taken,” another one of Besson’s inventions that also starred Maggie Grace as the victim.
Unfortunately, these exciting effects are all smoke and mirrors, and “Lockout” quickly loses any potential within the first 20 minutes. Part of this problem stems from the absence of chemistry between the actors.

Both Pearce and Grace are decent actors who have no sense of conducting their characters romantically. The film includes moments of sexual tension that mostly just feel awkward, and some scenes are even painful to watch.

In addition, Pearce’s character lacks the charisma expected of heroic spy agents. Snow’s sarcastic and degrading comments, supposedly the source of comic relief, end up falling flat.
Despite Pearce’s best efforts to come across wittily, Snow merely looks like a conceited and slightly selfish character. Although Besson’s script is mediocre at best, the amount of plot substance is surprising.

Most action movies focus on special effects, but Besson manages to interweave several subplots into the original rescue mission, even including an unexpected twist at the very end.

Regrettably the plot remains pretty weak, and the significance of the subplots is not explained very well. The ending leaves the audience still trying to separate the good government officials from the bad ones and questioning Snow’s true relationship with them. Moreover, character development is so unsuccessful that practically every minor character is overlooked.

The main exception to this is Grace, who ventures out of her earlier role as the damsel in distress from “Taken.”

Although she still needs saving, Emilie holds her own against many of her opponents.
Grace crafts Emilie into a strong, yet compassionate female character, and Emilie is the most realistic and the most likeable individual in the film.

Regardless of the few thrilling moments, the film lapses into a brainless exercise that consists of watching people shoot and dodge bullets. Despite high hopes based on Besson’s previous work, “Lockout” just doesn’t live up to “Taken.” The viewer leaves the movie feeling dissatisfied and hoping that outer space is much more promising than he or she just experienced.

— Contact Jessica Li.

4/16/2012