It’s 2079, and Guy Pearce is being punched in the face.
When the President’s daughter (Maggie Grace) is on a humanitarian mission to a maximum security prison in Earth’s orbit, MS1, she’s kidnapped by escaped convicts and held hostage as the prison descends in to anarchy. On Earth, Snow (Pearce) who has been arrested in a mysterious incident involving a briefcase, is sent to MS1 to bring her back. But Snow’s motives are not what they seem, as he also attempts to search for his incarcerated friend Mace (Tim Plester) who holds the secret to the briefcase and the key to Snow’s freedom.
Guy Pearce, for anyone who hasn’t seen Memento, is a first-rate actor, but even a man of his considerable talent is unable to bring the crucial element of likeability to the character of Snow. He’s a wisecracking badass straight out of the mould of Tony Stark (Iron Man) or Martin Riggs (Lethal Weapon), but his persistent flippancy is grating rather than amusing, particularly opposite Grace’s nagging turn as First Daughter Emilie Warnock. To get away with such tragically awful dialogue you need an actor with a presence Pearce lacks, even if he does a good job of being punched in the face.
The subplot of the briefcase’s whereabouts is mercifully neglected for most of the film, until it’s brought back at the end to give an anticlimactic finale to 90 minutes of explosions, punches and gunfire. But the explosions, punches and gunfire are there in abundance, and aside from a Batpod rip-off car chase near the start that looks like a video game, the special effects are top notch.
In places it tries to be a hostage film, with a brief attempt at negotiation and a token nod to cop films where the feds show up to take control. But it’s pure science-fiction in its premise, even if the ethical questions it raises about the humane treatment of prisoners, and the wisdom of attempting to rescue only the President’s daughter while a number of other hostages are held on board, are abandoned in favour of more explosions.
Lockout is fun, but there are too many plot holes and not enough heart to make it good. The two dimensional characters struggle to make themselves heard above the explosions, which may be a good thing, but ultimately Lockout is imprisoned by its own lack of commitment.