Lockout is one of those movies that you cringe at and yet have muted optimism that it will become something different than what you perceive it to be. While I swear by a belief that every movie has the potential to be good, within a few minutes of Lockout, you are so confused and thrown off by alarmingly bad visual effects and an incomprehensible storyline, that Lockout becomes every bad science-fiction film you can imagine, without aliens, all rolled into one.
As a matter of fact, alien creatures would have helped tremendously. But alas, we just have human beings in 2079, where the 56th President of the United States (you do the math…) has sent his daughter on a fact-finding mission to the space orbiting prison MS One. Here, the most unsavory and despicable prisoners are kept in stasis, away from Earth, for the duration of their prison term. Kept in what essentially appears to be a standing cryogenically-induced coma kind of thing, you would never presume to expect that during the President’s daughter’s visit, a prisoner breaks free, chaos and riots ensue, and the First Daughter (Maggie Grace) and a comically endless stream of technicians and scientists and other workers are all kept hostage by the de facto leaders of the prison break, Alex and Hydell (Vincent Regan and a fitfully annoying Joseph Gilgun, respectively).
With things going ballistic out above the ozone, the President turns to a wrongfully convicted conspirator named Snow (Guy Pearce), and offers him freedom, if he can safely return his daughter back home. I mean, why not? I have not personally been to the year 2079 yet, so I am unclear if we have a working military or National Guard to monitor and travel to MS One, but essentially the President of the United States (Peter Hudson) places his country’s well-being in the hands of a man convicted of espionage against his host country. How a traveling prison in space is an immediate threat against our national security is not explained, but Lockout is also a movie which features people freefalling off of MS One, in space, in astronaut uniforms, able to successfully re-enter the Earth’s orbit and landing, via parachute, safely, without any issues whatsoever, back on the Earth’s surface.
The only thing that Lockout has going for it is a hilarious and charismatic performance by Guy Pearce, who gives a big giant bearhug around all of this ridiculousness, with a refreshing earnestness about the absurdities transpiring around him. He exhibits great comedic timing, makes goofy and clichéd dialogue sound nearly palatable, and proves that he deserves better.
Some have given this an out because it is truly nothing more than a theatrically released B-movie. In the old brick-and-mortar video store days, Lockout would be that second or third throw-in movie that you rent to either appease your teenagers or simply rent just because you took the time to get some movies at the rental store. Lockout then immediately induces that same reaction of renting something against your better judgment: you knew it would suck, paid money for it, and now have the burden of watching it and returning it to the video store.
Apparently there were fights over final cut and what rating the film would be exhibited with and none of that matters, because you can literally see and perceive problems over every last frame of this debacle. The acting seems to exist in disjointed worlds and no two characters ever form any type of cohesive bond. The renegade brothers are so poorly cast, one puffy and bloated looking, the other rail-thin and gangly, that I completely forgot they were brothers moments after they stated it out loud. Maggie Grace is lost and badly overmatched, not only by Guy Pearce’s mocking arrogance, but also in the action sequences. She seems to be laboring, as if it is taking everything she has to get through these scenes. Poor girl.
We also have an inside connection for Snow, who constantly eats nuts of some kind. Where they come from and why that is a quirk of this particular character, I have no idea. In the prison riot scene, with all hell breaking loose on MS One, prisoners are attacking each other, and from appearances might be killing one another. Yet, beyond that scene, they are perfectly content to take their orders from the mismatched brothers and really never fight with each other again. I’m certainly glad they got all of that out of their systems then.
Lockout is a waste of everyone’s time. The visual effects are embarrassingly bad and only at best ordinary, with one sequence at the beginning so badly rendered, it resembles graphics from a PlayStation/Nintendo 64-era of video gaming. I am not kidding.
For first-time directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger, credited here as Saint & Mather, they should never work again. Maggie Grace should focus on simpler projects because even with her work on “Lost”, I have no sense at all as to whether she is a good actress or not. And at the end of the day, the only other thing to take away from Lockout is that Guy Pearce is awesome and should be one of the biggest stars in the world. So, there’s that.