Luc Besson has a fairly simple formula when it comes to making action films as a producer. Get a leading man or woman not known for action films, make him a supremely talented badass with plenty of good one-liners, boil down the plot to its most simple action film formula and keep it under two hours. Throw in a sidekick if you want to vary the formula a bit, of course, and you can crank out a film a year if the budget’s right. It’s been fairly successful so far and Lockout follows in the tradition of Taken, Colombiana and From Paris With Love (amongst others) amongst the Besson-produced features as a fun but not necessarily brilliant feature.
Snow (Guy Pearce) is a former CIA operative who does two things equally: give jerky one-liners and kick ass. Convicted of killing someone he didn’t, Snow is forced into a suicide mission. The President’s daughter (Maggie Grace) has wound up being held hostage by criminals on a humanitarian mission. Snow is sent on a one man mission to save her amongst the 500 criminals and other degenerates but with one catch: it’s in space.
Coming in at barely over 90 minutes, this is Besson’s formula boiled down to its purest form. Pearce is given a one note character, a Snake Plissken type, but embraces it with a sort of glee that makes Lockout engaging while it lasts. Pearce is never dull in a film, of course, but he makes for an engaging action hero by playing what could be an annoying protagonist into a sort of curmudgeonly anti-hero. Snow is nothing but violence and one-liners, of course, but Besson has essentially boiled down his main character into the best assets of a ‘80s action film. And that’s essentially what this is:
A ‘80s action film with a modern budget.
There’s nothing complex about this film and it feels a couple decades too late. Aping a similar format to mid 90s flop Fortress 2, this is a film that Arnold Schwarzenegger would’ve done back in his heyday if presented with the script. And that’s inherently the film’s problem: it has nothing deep and feels like a collection of parts from better films.
There’s enough moments that ape more popular films from Blade Runner to Die Hard that the film doesn’t quite ever find its own rhythm or tone. This is a film too concerned with trying to take better moments from better films into its own signature moments as opposed to finding something new and unique for its own. It does it well but it feels empty and hollow; there’s nothing about the film that is memorable outside of Pearce being a fairly solid action lead.
James Mather and Stephen St. Leger have created a throwaway ‘80s action film, nothing more, but Lockout isn’t mind numbing insulting or bad in doing so. It’s just not that good.
Director: James Mather, Stephen St. Leger Notable Cast: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Vincent Regan, Joseph Gilgun, Lennie James, Peter Stormore Writer(s): James Mather, Stephen St. Leger, Luc Besson