It’s been nearly twenty-five years since Bruce Willis tore up the screen as John McClane in the unforgettable action thriller "Die Hard."
McClane was a sarcastic but admirable police officer forced to take on a group of terrorists to save his wife and her fellow hostages. In the new film "Lockout," Guy Pearce plays a similar role. He’s a sarcastic but (somewhat) admirable former CIA agent forced to take on a group of escaped convicts to rescue the president’s daughter—another in a long line of damsels in distress.
In this situation, the president’s daughter is the naïve Elie Warnock (Maggie Grace). She’s sent on a humanitarian mission to what is believed to be an exemplary outer-space prison. In this prison, there have been no sexual assaults, no riots and no accusations of physical assaults. Of course, all of the prisoners are heavily-medicated.
Elie hopes to use her trip to see what effect the drugs are having on the prisoners firsthand, but while she’s interviewing one of them, he overpowers the security officers. Soon, all of the drugged prisoners are free and roaming around the ship like rats in a cheese factory.
And the rats are in control in this prison facility. As an intelligent and manipulative prisoner, Vincent Regan plays Ale, who wants to negotiate with the government agents who are trying to save the hostages. But it’s the unsettling Hydell (Joseph Gilgun) who proves to be the most monstrous prisoner on board. He’s bug-eyed and crazy enough to kill the hostages without a second look.
It’s one thing to have a diplomatic prisoner negotiate from a position of power. It’s another to negotiate with a psychopath. And that’s what Hydell is.
Pearce plays Snow, a recent prisoner who is still grounded on Earth. After being accused of murder, he’s offered a choice: He can serve out his prison sentence or be sent into space to bring the president’s daughter back. After showing some hesitation, he agrees to the deal.
And Pearce’s performance is one of the highlights in this otherwise uninspired B-Movie. As Snow, Pearce evokes an aura of invincibility but has a sarcastic streak that’s always worth a few laughs. When the president’s daughter escapes from the prisoner’s clutches and is searching for a way to escape, she asks Snow if her father has a message for her.
“Yes,” Snow answers bluntly, “you were adopted.”
It’s that type of dialogue and interplay between the two leads that makes this feature worth watching. Yes, some of the action sequences are poorly done and the plot—like that of B-movies before it—becomes incredibly over the top. But people don’t go to films like this to watch a realistic story about a prison outbreak. They go to enjoy the fun and this movie—above everything else—is fun.
The screenplay was co-written by Luc Besson, who came up with the concept. Besson was one of the screenwriters of films like "The Fifth Element," "Taken" and "Columbiana," so viewers should know what to expect in a movie like this. It’s nothing Earth-shattering but "Lockout" provides a solid ninety minutes of entertainment. Sometimes, that’s enough.