Movie Review: LockoutPosted: April 24, 2012
This film opens with one of the best character introductions I’ve seen in years.
In close up we see Guy Pearce’s face, he plays Snow, an ex-CIA operative who is being questioned. Snow responds to each question with a quip and is promptly punched in the face, disappearing out of shot briefly before reappearing, bloodied, to quip again.
Snow is an old school, sarcastic quipping action-hero, I heard him likened to Bruce Willis in a review by Mark Kermode, and I think that’s quite accurate. The profanity and toughness he shows in this flick does have echoes of what I think is one of Willis’ best movies The Last Boy Scout.
Its odd to see Pearce play such a simplistic role, as he’s mainly known for more serious, thoughtful work like Memento and LA Confidential, but its a testimony to his range and skill as an actor that he makes a thoroughly convincing, likable roguish action hero.
In a dystopian near future Snow has been framed for a crime he didn’t commit, the murder of his friend, a secret service agent suspected of espionage. However, his friend was attempting to get back stolen secrets and expose the mole in the agency. Snow was apprehended fleeing the scene, but had managed to pass the case on to his associate, Mace (Tim Plester) who stashed it in a subway locker before being nabbed himself.
Snow is in trouble as the agent in charge Langral (Peter Stormare) is unsympathetic and believes him to be guilty. However, an old friend, Shaw (Lennie James) is slightly more helpful.
Meanwhile, the President’s daughter, Emilie (Maggie Grace) has visited a prison satellite on a humanitarian trip to check that storing prisoners in stasis is ethical. However, during an interview with Hydell (Joseph Gilgun) a crazed prisoner something goes wrong and Hydell escapes, freeing all the other prisoners leading to mayhem.
Hydell’s calmer, more rational brother Alex (Vincent Regan) takes control of the situation and stops Hydell from assaulting Emilie, who’s identity he is unaware of.
Snow is chosen to undertake a daring one man rescue in exchange for his freedom, and is initially reluctant until Shaw tips him off that Mace is in the prison, meaning Snow may be able to clear his name and expose the traitor.
Will Snow rescue Emilie? And how long will it be before Alex realises that he holds a very important hostage?
As you can tell its a fairly simple, genre flick but that isn’t a bad thing. There are echoes of Escape From New York, although as cool as Pearce is as Snow he’s not quite in the Snake league of awesomeness.
You kind of know what you’re going to get because Luc Besson is listed as a producer and he is the king of fun, badass action movies, after all this is the man who had a hand in District 13, Taken and the Transporter series, and this film doens’t disappoint.
Yes its got a few cliched touches, and its predictable, but its a thoroughly entertaining ride and the kind of film that’d be perfect for a night in with a can or two and a pizza.
A large part of this is down to Pearce, as I said, he surprised me with how good an action hero he makes and I can’t stress enough how cool he is. He delivers the sarky one-liners with great aplomb and the character of Snow is the kind of chain smoking tough guy that was popular in the 80s/90s. Its good to have it back, this is a film where the hero isn’t haunted by ghosts of the past or inner demons, in fact its suggested heavily that Snow’s fall from grace may simply be down to his own inability to play with others.
Pearce has bulked up quite considerably and does give the impression throughout that under the jokes and dishevelled appearance that Snow is a badass. This is highlighted when the action kicks off, but I rather like the fact that rather than skill, Snow’s major advantage comes from his resiliency, as he gets a pasting over the course of the film. But too tough, or dumb to stay down he merely dusts himself off and keeps scrapping.
And the interplay between Snow and Emilie is one of the film’s greatest strengths, with his cynicism colliding head-on with her idealism. They spark off each other very well and exchange quickfire dialogue wonderfully, much of it having an old-school hard boiled feel to it.
Also, the character of Emilie is an interesting one, she gives the film a bit of heart and her horror and guilt as she realises that her life has been attributed more value than the other hostages is quite touching. She’s also quite a tough character, and while she may whine a bit at the start she’s a fairly strong female role as she gives as good as she gets with Snow and displays some grit and integrity. I liked that she refused to just be bossed about and fall into the trap of being a simple damsel in distress.
The supporting cast is quite good as well- the villainous brothers make for engaging villains, with Vincent Regan playing Alex with a cold ruthless edge that gives a palpable air of menace and Gilgun really cutting loose as the unhinged Hydell, a demented, babbling force of nervous energy and danger.
Stormare does shady and dodgy as well as anybody, and here he’s on fine form, and as the friendlier agent Shaw, Lennie James is quite likable and he and Pearce have a certain amount of chemistry during their banter.
The film is not without its flaws, mainly the anonymity of the rest of the prisoners. I know there’s not enough time to sketch out the henchmen, but they largely fade into the background and it might’ve been better if a few had been given unique gimmicks or something.
There’s a fair amount of CGI and some of the fight sequences are a trifle short for my liking, but it whistles past at an engaging, breakneck speed and the positives outweigh the negatives by quite some margin.
Also, the ending feels perfectly pitched and ensures you leave the cinema with a smile on your face.
Another success for Besson, and might we see Pearce reinvent himself as an action hero? On the basis of his work here, he’d make a good one.
Verdict: Pearce is fantastic as the cynical tough guy hero, and there’s good chemistry between him and Grace. A thoroughly entertaining, no-nonsense sci-fi action movie. 7/10
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO