The IMDB entry for ‘Lockout’ credits Luc Besson as producer, co-screenwriter and ‘original idea’ – but rarely have those words been so wrongly applied. It’s the futuristic tale of a muscular, tough-talking convict who is offered parole if he busts the US president’s attractive, politically savvy daughter out of a maximum security prison which has become overrun by psychopaths, rapists and those guilty of crimes against acting. Sound familiar?
But if ‘Lockout’ isn’t a patch on ‘Escape from New York’ – and the countless other ’80s and ’90s action movies it references – there’s still fun to be had with this messy, trashy, frequently idiotic throwback. Guy Pearce plays Snow, the quip-happy lunk tasked with springing first daughter Maggie Grace from an orbiting maximum security prison. Problem is, the lunatics – in the form of stoical mastermind Vincent Regan and his berserker brother Joseph Gilgun – have taken over the asylum, and aren’t about to let their prize hostage go without a fight.
‘Lockout’ ought to be much better than it is: the idea may be unoriginal but it promises explosive fun and a script constructed almost entirely of humourous asides inevitably scores a few genuinely funny cracks. The cast seem to be enjoying themselves: while Pearce and Regan both fall back on standard hero v villain cliches, the Busey-Buscemi award for impressively madcap overacting goes straight to ‘This is England’ star Gilgun: if the scenery wasn’t all stainless steel, he’d have chewed it to shreds.
But first-time feature directors James Mather and Stephen St Leger have a lot to learn. Pacing and tone are all over the place, while tension is repeatedly squandered in favour of another sweaty punch-up. There’s also scant attention paid to logic: the final escape, for instance, pushes past unlikely into insulting. The result is sporadically enjoyable but more often infuriating – every time the film feels as though it’s about to achieve liftoff, Mather and St Leger take their feet off the gas and ‘Lockout’ slumps back onto the launchpad. But for fans of sci-fi schlock, there are memorable moments – most of them Gilgun’s – to justify the ticket price.