Thursday 23 January 2020

Only Pearce can save this dull flick

Paul Whitington

Paul Whitington


(15A, general release, 95 minutes)

Director: James Maher, Stephen St Leger Stars: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Peter Stormare, Vincent Regan


A frantic science-fiction thriller set in the year 2079, Lockout is ostensibly the work of two young Irish filmmakers, Stephen St Leger and James Maher. But look down the credits a bit and you'll find out who's really behind it all: Luc Besson co-wrote the screenplay and came up with the original idea, and his fingerprints are all over this this relentlessly dumb but sometimes entertaining B picture.

Besson has produced some fairly arresting images over the course of his long, patchy career, but even his best films are hopelessly glib and superficial and held together by outbursts of spectacular violence. Lockout fits right into his oeuvre, and stars Guy Pearce as Snow, a futuristic government agent who's arrested for killing one of his colleagues.

Things don't appear to have improved much for mankind 67 years hence: criminality is rampant and felons are now dealt with in the harshest terms.

Those convicted of violent crimes are sent to an off-world prison where they're cryogenically frozen for the duration of their stay. Doesn't sound too bad to me, and beats lights-out in a three-man cell and those lonely walks to the showers, but there's evidence that the freezing process does bad things to the human brain.

The US President's daughter, Emilie (Maggie Grace) is visiting the space prison to report on conditions by interviewing specially defrosted prisoners when one of them, an annoyingly rabid character called Hydell (Joseph Gilgun), grabs a guard's gun and unleashes a riot.

As hundreds of prisoners are liberated a siege develops, and the authorities are desperate to get Emilie out before the crazies find out who she is.

So desperate, in fact, that they decide to send the fallen agent Snow in to rescue her.

Made for a modest $30m, Lockout boasts some of the worst CGI effects I've ever seen, but also a certain low-rent panache and some decent production design. If the premise sounds a bit like Escape from New York, Lockout will remind you of all sorts of old sci-fi thrillers before it's done, and contains hardly a single fresh idea.

It's badly written and full of stock characters, from Peter Stormare's government thug to Alex, the canny leader of the prison revolt played with commendable charisma by Scottish actor Vincent Regan.

As the film totters towards its absurd and predictable conclusion, it's Pearce who makes the whole thing a little more than merely bearable. He's never to my knowledge been less than excellent in anything, and makes a far more convincing action hero than you might think.

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