Film Review: Lockout

Disgraced agent is sent to a prison in outer space to rescue the President's kidnapped daughter in this so-so action outing from the Luc Besson factory.

Concept tops execution in this mid-level sci-fi adventure from Luc Besson's EuropaCorp. Borrowing liberally from Escape from New York, Lockout offers a great set-up, but fails to follow through with convincing action or effects. Casting isn't strong enough to persuade viewers to watch this in theatres instead of at home.

With real estate in the future at a premium, the government test-markets a prison in outer space in which convicts are kept in "stasis" comas to serve out their terms. While interviewing a violent sex offender about conditions on the space station, Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace) is taken hostage in an uprising that eventually frees all the convicts.

Back on Earth, duplicitous Langral (Peter Stormare), an aide to the President, interrogates former CIA agent Snow (Guy Pearce) about a murder that resulted in the loss of state secrets. Langral and agent Shaw (Lennie James) offer Snow a choice: rescue Emilie, or undergo stasis. Snow agrees to help, in part because Mace (Tim Plester), a colleague with clues about the murder, is incarcerated on the space station.

By the time Snow sneaks aboard the prison, Alex (Vincent Regan) has taken charge of the inmates. While negotiating with Langral and Shaw, Alex discovers Emilie's identity. Alex's younger brother Hydell (Joe Gilgun), a deranged sex offender, disrupts plans to free the President's daughter, causing the government to target the space station for destruction. In the midst of the ensuing chaos, Snow must convince Emilie that he's trying to help her, extract information from Mace, and make his way to an escape pod before the missile attack.

Lockout is the debut feature for directors James Mather (also the cinematographer) and Stephen Saint Leger, who were hired by EuropaCorp on the strength of their short Prey Alone. One chase early in the film shows real promise, taking Pearce's hero from a hotel to freeway to subway with split-second timing and obvious but still entertaining CGI.
The rest of the film is more hit-or-miss. Sets on the space-station prison show little imagination, relying on the same duct crawlspaces, empty corridors and control rooms of any earthbound prison. Action is violent but never very credible, and scenes never seem to build much momentum.

Acting throughout is perfunctory. Pearce imitates the swagger of action stars, but his performance feels empty. Grace, forced into an unattractive disguise for much of the plot, never seems comfortable as the President's daughter.

Love it or hate it, Luc Besson's The Fifth Element at least looked expensive. Lockout, produced by Besson's EuropaCorp and based on his "original idea," is not just derivative but drab. Given its cast and generally poor effects, it will have trouble attracting anyone besides die-hard action fans.