Genre Cinema faces a dearth of genuine originality. Even Prometheus, arguably the most ambitious sci-fi flick in recent memory, is born of a 30-year old franchise. As if to hammer home this point, along comes Lockout, home to a whole spate of obvious influences that are skewered and deflated by a lack of a commanding personal touch.
The plot lends itself to this lack of ambition, proceeding as follows: gruff anti-hero (Guy Pearce) gets framed; philanthropic president’s daughter (Maggie Grace) visits ‘escape-proof’ space prison; prisoners escape from ‘escape-proof’ prison; girl gets kidnapped; anti-hero gets sent to rescue her; duly does so; anti-hero and girl squabble… you get the idea.
Lockout’s willingness to be game for a laugh is endearing in the right circumstances, but it doesn’t serve to add any much-needed credence to the supposedly high stakes, with this inherent theatricality meaning that it’s hard to take anything seriously, especially when the film itself doesn’t seem all that concerned about offering anything new to the genre.
Even so, faced with a skeleton plot the talent involved bust a gut. Pearce’s performance alone is nearly enough to redeem this feature for its faults, playing mercenary Snow with a gruff nonchalance that makes him instantly endearing. Similarly, antagonist Joseph Gilgun, so long sidelined on TV in the likes of Emmerdale and Misfits, explodes onto the big screen, turning otherwise one-note psychopath Rydell into a twitching, terrifying time-bomb.
It will be interesting to see how he does in future roles that aren’t simply plot devices. Even Grace, despite essentially reprising her ‘kidnapped rich girl’ role from Taken, bounces off Pearce for some of the best dialogue in the film – not that there’s much competition in this regard.
It’s the fact that the cast clearly give a damn that makes Lockout’s drawbacks – notably the borderline incomprehensible final third and some truly awful CGI – so hard to stomach. It half-heartedly attempts to emulate the charm of the likes of John Carpenter’s Escape From New York, but under-reaches to the extent that it lands closer to The Fifth Element, minus the camp charm.