Let's cut to the chase. Lockout is derivative, clichéd, has some dodgy CGI FX work and has nothing new to add to the Sci-Fi sub-genre of future prison action movies. However, that does not mean that the movie is not enjoyable. On the contrary, if approached with the right mind set, then Lockout can be an entertaining experience, which will have you chuckling as it ticks boxes in a knowing fashion and offers some budget action and hard-boiled dialogue. It certainly isn't going to win any awards, but is does everything that a B movie should do. If you treat it as such then you won't be misled.
For starters, think Escape from New York, then No Escape and then finally Fortress. Follow that order to find the appropriate level. Where John Carpenter made Snake Plissken a Clint Eastwood/John Wayne hybrid, Guy Pearces' Snow is more of a John McClane/Han Solo crossover. Lockout never strays into being a total rip-off of Carpenter's work, but it sails close to bounderies of what can be labelled "a homage". Guy Pearce, armed with pumped biceps and an arsenal of waggish badinage plays Snow, a former government agent who must single-handedly rescue the President’s daughter (Maggie Grace), from a space prison to escape (for some particular reason as Homer Simpson said). The prisoners are the usual collection of cinematic sociopaths, although Hydell (Joseph Gilgun), the psychotic brother of the prisoner’s leader, has all the best lines and is immense fun to watch. Stuff gets blown up, fist fights ensue, the laws of physics are conveniently bent to suit the plot as you expect from such movies.
When Luc Besson initially started putting his name to broader action productions, it was a pleasant alternative to mainstream Hollywood fodder. The European vibe brought something new to familiar action material. However, these movies are now plagiarising the very material they seek to be different to and the distinction is not so great now. Written and directed by relative newcomers James Mather and Stephen St. Leger, Lockout perhaps needed a more experienced pair of hands at the helm. The movie was shot on location in Belgrade but also had extensive green screen footage shot in post-production. The movie struggles to integrate both elements. However, it's quirky continental pedigree, tongue in cheek approach, along with its fast pace does allow the directors to effectively "blag it".
I was in an unusually forgiving mood when I saw Lockout in the movie theatre on its release and chose to ignore its faults and simply dealt with it like a DTV action title from the eighties. I even smirked when Snow balked at being beaten by a guy called Rupert. However, this is the sort of movie that plays a lot better in the home entertainment market. It’s something that goes well with a few beers and a curry. If you are a casual film viewer, you may wish to give this one a miss as it lacks some of the polish of bigger budget releases. For those who have a deeper love for the action genre and have sat through Freejack and Fortress 2: Re-Entry, then you can take this one on the chin easily.