Can a silly action movie be too silly? A ludicrous sci-fi flick be too ludicrous? Lockout is a cinematic stunt, a motorcycle ride across a tightrope that teeters the line between bombastic fun and inane, nonsensical lunacy. A collage of futuristic landscapes and big screen 1-vs-100 scenarios, reputable French producer Luc Besson's (The Fifth Element, Taken) "space jail" thriller tests your patience for stupidity and cookie cutter filmmaking. The movie does a good deal of winking, but nine times out of ten it just has crud in its eye.
ALTGuy Pearce stars as the one-liner-slinging Snow, an alleged murderer sentenced to life in the orbital penitentiary MS One. Snow fails to convince Langral (Peter Stromare), head of the Secret Service, that his recent running, punching, kicking, car chasing escapades were anything more than a crazy man on the crazy run (when in fact, we know it's all in an effort to protect and hand off a MacGuffin briefcase). Meanwhile, the President's daughter, Emilie (Maggie Grace), heads to MS One to get the scoop on the prison's nefarious psychological experiments, only to find herself (thanks to an idiot secret serviceman) in the middle of an all-out inmate revolt. With a hostage situation on the Secret Service's hands, there's only one person suitable for the infiltration hostage mission: the guy they just convicted as a murderer.
Forget logic Snow's the best man for the job because Pearce's gravitas outdoes every tense dramatic moment, every flashy action scene, every CG spectacle in Lockout. He is the saving grace of the film, crafting a character who deserves a Die Hard or Escape from New York, instead of the limp, half-baked vehicle that's more sizzle reel than narrative film. Grace holds her own with the fast-talking badass, forming a rapport that blossoms in the film's calmer moments. But they're rare, with writers/directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger insisting on jumping from the dynamic pair to the caricatured villains (apparently MS One is a space jail comprised entirely of Scottish/Irish criminals) or the cliche-ridden Government goons manning a control room.
If Lockout approached its sci-fi and action with the same intimacy that made Besson's District B13 and Taken successful, it may have found a footing. But the cat and mouse game exist in a world where plot is written for twists (the nameless "package" continually bears its ugly head in the escape story) and rules are made up on the spot. Anything can happen! in a bad way. At one point, Snow and Emily jump out of MS One, into space, and fall downward. Because there's gravity in space? A nitpick that speaks to the larger problem: Lockout never tries to make any sense dramatically, viscerally, emotionally.