Critic vs. Critic: 'Lockout'

What happens when film critics don't see eye to eye on a particular movie? Fists don't fly, but a heaping helping of words get thrown back and forth.

Such was the case when Big Hollywood's own Christian Toto and Dave Taylor (Dave On Film, AskDaveTaylor.com) couldn't disagree more about the new sci-fi feature, "Lockout," in theaters now.


Dave: I love cheesy science fiction films, and have a soft sport for all the malicious bug movies of the '50s and '60s. You know what I mean, the giant tarantulas, ants, wasps, and even jello-o blobs that were all intent on either taking over the world or at least eating as many humans as they could entrap. So it's not like I don't appreciate shlocky flicks. But I couldn't handle "Lockout." From the completely illogical storyline that hops all over the place and offers teasers of completely different directions the film could have gone but doesn't to the green-screen effects and one-dimensional cliché characters, to the smartass Snow (Guy Pearce) who lacked the inner good guy of, say, Snake Plissken from "Escape from LA," I hated the film.

You, however, didn't. What's up with that, Christian?

Christian: "Lockout" caught me by surprise. Yes, it's as poorly constructed as you say, and it's a difficult movie to wrap your arms around. Yet it has that '80s action movie vibe that I find infectious and a lead performance by an actor better known for more serious work. It's clear Guy Pearce is having a blast playing the wiseacre named Snow, and the film's inability to take itself seriously also stood out. And what about those villains? Scenery chewing at its best - no apologies, no calories. Didn't you enjoy the snarky banter between Pearce and Maggie Grace, cast as the bleeding heart who gets a taste of reality in that outer space prison?

Dave: I gotta disagree with you, Christian. You say that it has the '80s movie vibe, but I don't recall the great 80's action sci-fi movies having such gaping plot holes and such an unlikeable lead. Think "Blade Runner," "The Terminator" or "Robocop": all of them have complex, interesting and likable characters, even if they're somewhat tortured by their past or present experiences. Of course, these three also have something else in common with "Lockout" too, which is a fundamentally implausible premise. Replicants more human than human? A robot with a human exterior that can travel back thru time? A robot with a human's brain controlling its actions? Then again, the '80s also gave us such action drivel as "Predator" which is notably lacking in any interesting characters, human or alien, so perhaps it's not too bad a comparison after all.

I love smart dialog. Give me the staccato delivery of a great David Mamet dialog and I'm all smiles, regardless of what they're talking about. But the banter between Pearce and Grace? Since I was completely disengaged from either character and actively disliked both Snow (Pearce) and Warnock (Grace) so not only wasn't entertained by their dialog but was appalled by the hair-cutting scene where Snow forces himself on Warnock even as she screams and fights to evade him. Is this the kind of boy overcomes girl, girl eventually realizes she needed him sort of message that's even appropriate for modern cinema, however high or low brow?

And then there are the unresolved plot threads. What happened to the evil corporation doing research on very long term exposure to deep space?  What was going on with the dissected corpse Snow stumbles upon later in the film?

Christian: I certainly wouldn't place "Lockout" alongside great '80s fare like "Robocop" and "The Terminator." It would clearly fall in the second or third tier of the era's action films - maybe a fourth if one exists (Van Damme??). But guilty pleasures shouldn't be so easily dismissed. Nor should the atypical one liners thrown out by Snow along the way. Today's action heroes are too pretty, too eager to say the right thing. So when Snow snarks about high taxes it's refreshing and uncommon.

An action film can often be judged on the quality of the villains, and the unhinged cad at the heart of "Lockout" is a delirious sort who makes every scene watchable - and then some. For me, it's often about judging a film by its ambitions - be they large or rather modest.

Dave: Ah, you've invoked the "guilty pleasure" trump card. Okay, within that context I can accept that you liked the film and that presumably other people did too. Then again, boxofficemojo reports it did pretty poorly so far: $11.8 million domestic against a production budget of $30 mil (according to IMDb). Then again, with Hollywood accounting, that could actually prove to be profitable, and with overseas box office, cable rights and DVD sales, I can see it breaking even.

Oh, and guilty pleasure-wise? I'll admit, I like films like "Police Academy," so maybe we need to stop this conversation right here now that you've trumped my objections and forced me to make an embarrassing admission.


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