Action flick loses appeal with recycled features, weak villains

Courtesy of Europa Corp.

Pitchforks: 2.5/5

 

Starring: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace

 

Rating: PG-13

 

Release: April 13

“Lockout” commits the ultimate sin for action movies by throwing together a hodgepodge of stitched-together action elements from much more original entertainment products.

At only 95 minutes, the dull, unthreatening villains as well as the disengaging action scenes still manage to go on too long.

Set in the distant future of 2079, the action focuses on a prison break at the first outer space penitentiary that boasts to keep the prisoners in a sedated cryogenic state for their sentences. The only symptoms? Increased rage and testosterone in subjects, a never advisable side effect to introduce into a group of already highly volatile individuals.

During the breakout, Emilie (Maggie Grace), the president’s daughter, is taken hostage while investigating the prison’s inhumane practices. Her only chance of survival rests with Snow (Guy Pearce), a CIA agent accused of espionage who can buy his freedom if he gets her safely off the space station.

Snow’s sardonic wit and hard-headed attitude seem to derive from Philip Marlowe, and more recently, Michael Westen from USA Network’s “Burn Notice.” He’s nowhere near as compelling or as complex as those two, yet ironically Pearce’s detached performance sustains it as one of the few things watchable in “Lockout.”

The only other actor to make any sort of an impact onscreen is Grace, whose easily likable screen presence goes a long way. They have chemistry in the movie, but it comes too little, too late.

Worse than the passable protagonists are the static and occasionally incomprehensible action scenes. The only one with any originality transpires when Snow engages in a brief fight with a convict in an artificial gravity generator.

Brothers Alex (Vincent Regan) and Hydell (Joseph Gilgun) “lead” the band of criminals in revolt, but both represent non-presences as villains. The vacuum created by them and the script doesn’t help. Villains who pose no threat to the hero mostly typify poor action films.

The film mentions that the prison contains 500 convicts for its trial run, yet foolishly decides to follow only the two. The rest are harmless cannon fodder for the stronger prisoners or the barrel of Snow’s guns.

The premise of “Lockout” shares the much of the same DNA as “Con Air” from 15 years ago. “Con Air” covers the same concept of humanity with the edges rounded off, but it benefits from a tighter, darker comedic script.

The film also features psychopaths of the more colorfully drawn variety, lead by laconic, yet engaging John Malkovich and Ving Rhames. Somehow it was longer, but less tedious.

Luc Besson, one of the three co-writers, has written or been associated with far better action movies than this one, such as “Le Femme Nikita,” “Léon,” “The Fifth Element,” even “Taken.” In those he had a better handle of the action and the vibrant characters. The multiple screenwriters perhaps filtered any ingenuity of Besson’s initial vision.

“Lockout” loses its viewers early, and only leaves them to ponder on who and what in the past did it better.

 

Reach the reporter at tccoste1@asu.edu

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