Monday, April 16, 2012

Movie Review: Lockout

I think Luc Besson is a genius. His three English language live-action features (The Professional, The Fifth Element, and The Messenger) are three of my favorites. There's no denying that they're, at base, crowd-pleasing schlock, but count me among the pleased crowd. He knows his way around a camera, an impeccably tight screenplay, and action handled deftly and humorously. Perhaps Besson's greatest genius, though, lies in knowing when to hand the reins of a project over to someone else.

Besson's name is the first one on screen in the new film Lockout, which he produced, co-wrote, and for which he had "the original idea." However, his co-writers (and directors) James Mather and Stephen St. Leger (making their feature debut), take all the blame (Note: You know you're in trouble when the film's poster proclaims "From the Producers of Taken." It's like the trailer for Battleship: "From Hasbro, the company that brought you Transformers." Yikes).

Lockout stands in the often-great tradition of films like Die Hard and Under Siege, in which a wise-cracking butt-kicker must go up against a seemingly insurmountable enemy force to save the day. Here, it's Guy Pearce's wise-cracking butt-kicker who must save the President's daughter from a recently-taken-over-by-inmates supermax prison/insane asylum. Oh, and the prison? It's in freaking space. There is so much here for which one must suspend one's disbelief that one might as well check one's disbelief at the door. Seriously, one. Do that. But we American action movie fans are no strangers to the unbelievable. In fact, we relish it. An off-duty cop with no shoes? Check. A trophy-hunting alien with infra-red vision? Check. A combination supermax prison and insane asylum in space? Check. The problem with Lockout lies elsewhere.

Actually, it's in the screenplay and with Maggie Grace, who plays the aforementioned President's daughter. Both are terrible. The cracking wise becomes tiresome quickly, and is incredibly overdone. Grace doesn't know when to be tough or afraid, and her character apparently believes that constantly berating the man who's come into space to save her is a good plan. The screenplay doesn't know when to quit either. The original conceit is plenty, but we get double-crossing secondary characters we didn't care about, sleight-of-hand tricks that don't mean anything, and "witty" banter that's so saccharine it makes our teeth want to rot.  It can't even manage to pay off a ham-handed first act foreshadowing.

There are fun moments here, but they simply serve to throw the rest of the picture into tedious relief. All in all, I wish Besson had directed this generic actioner; perhaps he could have brought something unique to the table. Oh, time I'll just watch The Fifth Element instead.

Lockout:  1.5 stars out of 5.

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