Take no prisoners.
Take Escape from L.A., combine it with The Rock, add in elements of Aliens, Prison Break, and Fortress, then slash the budget and bury the entire thing under about a thousand pounds of hot, melted cheese. Mix it all together and you’ve got Lockout.
It’s the future. Snow (Guy Pearce, Memento) is a rouge CIA agent in search of some secret documents. When he’s captured by the government he believes is corrupt, he ends up facing a 30-year sentence. Meanwhile, the president’s daughter (Maggie Grace, Lost) is in space, touring an orbiting prison, where the world’s most dangerous prisoners are kept in suspended animation. All hell breaks loose, the prisoners escape, and now she’s being held hostage.
Snow’s captors offer him a deal—a reduced sentence in exchange for a one-man covert mission into the space prison to rescue the girl. One unscrupulous government stooge sweetens the deal, secretly telling Snow his buddy, the only one who knows the location of the stolen documents, is on board the station as well.
Now this is how you make a cheesy B-movie. The action begins right at the start with a tense fight in a bathroom. The claustrophobic setting lends itself to several brutal hits and cool moves. From there, we’re taken right to a motorcycle chase, aboard a futuristic Akira-style bike. The bike chase looks so much like a video game that it must be intentional, but not in a “you must buy the tie-in game” way, but in a “we’re making it look like a game because that would be a fun thing to do.” While all this is going on, it’s cut together with scenes of Snow being interrogated, and his sarcastic comebacks to his interrogators. It’s clear that the intent is not heavy drama, but to take the audience on a wild ride.
There’s a big difference between this movie and most other cheesy B-movies from the last 10-15 years. In this one, everyone commits to the material. Nothing is meta. No one winks at the camera, literally or metaphorically. In most movies of this type, there’s a sort of playfulness and abandon, as everyone’s thinking, “Hee, look at us, we’re making a bad movie! We’re in on the joke!” You’ll find none of that in Lockout, which works in the movie’s favor. Even though it’s goofball cheese, everyone nonetheless brings their A-game, and that’s what makes the movie as much fun as it is.
Make no mistake, though, the cheese flows like wine. Snow speaks only in sarcasm, with a quip always at the ready, no matter the circumstances. He and the president’s daughter have the “we’re-hurling-insults-like-we-hate-each-other-even-though-it’s-obvious-we’ll—be-locking-lips-by-the-time-the-movie’s-over” thing down to a science. The villains’ only motivation is escape, and, of course, to act as psycho as possible. This makes it easier to root for Snow as he punches, kicks, and shoots his way through wave after wave of them.
Guy Pearce is in full-on action hero mode, cocky swagger from head to toe. Maggie Grace, who I still insist is a better actress than the scripts she keeps getting, does her best to keep up with him. Lennie James (Jericho) brings some fun quirkiness to his duplicitous bureaucrat character, as does the always out-there Peter Stormare. As noted above, the many murderous prisoners ham it up big time.
No complaints about the picture or audio on the DVD. The visuals are saturated with a lot of greens and oranges for a sometimes soft image, but that’s intentional, and it’s a clean transfer. Sound is good as well, making the most of every explosion and gunshot. Extras are slim with two featurettes, one a general making-of and one a closer look at the production value and special effects. Note that this is the unrated version of the movie, with a couple of extra seconds of blood n’ guts not seen in theaters.
If Lockout had come out in, say, 1986, today we’d be heralding it as a forgotten geek classic. Is it cheesy and ridiculous? It certainly is. But, it’s also genuine, and that makes all the difference.