Guy Pearce does smarmy ego-jerk better than most. His Monty Beragon in 'Mildred Pierce' was particularly amusing. As Fernand Mondego in 'The Count of Monte Cristo' he was deliciously cruel, all the while keeping that rich-boy sycophantic charm that made his villainous role so damn likable. When Pearce is cast as the evil-but-makes-it-look-so-good bad guy he's definitely in his element, however, when you turn that smartass demeanor into some kind of anti-hero, the Mystique of Pearce begins to crumble. This is exactly what happens in 'Lockout,' which is essentially 'Escape from New York' innnnnn spaaaaaaace!
Its 2079 and we've finally figured out what to do with Earth's worst criminals. Shoot them into space, put them in a cryo-sleep for the duration of their sentence, and hope that nothing goes wrong. Seriously, nothing can go wrong, right? I mean, what are the chances that a secret service agent who is protecting the president's daughter (Maggie Grace), would sneak a concealed weapon into an interview with a psychopath who just happens to be an expert pickpocket? Those odds seem pretty astronomical to me… oh, wait…
So, I think you've guessed the rest from the trailers. The president's daughter is on a fact-finding mission to make sure that everything about this orbiting prison of frozen rapists and murderers is on the up-and-up and then the prison is subsequently taken over by the prisoner-cicles and we've got 'Con Air' innnnnn spaaaaaaace! Only with less Malkovich.
Amidst this floating prison riot is a story about our plucky anti-hero, Snow (Pearce), who has been "framed" for murder and has been convicted and ordered to carry out his sentence aboard the Supermax space prison. That is until all hell breaks loose and then he's commandeered by the president and his top men to go into the prison (being an ex-CIA agent comes in handy) and rescue the president's daughter from the murderous miscreants on board.
The biggest problem with the movie isn't its paint-by-numbers prison-break plot, or the fact that it has to replay the entire movie in a flashback sequence near the end just in case we missed anything important, rather, it's that Snow isn't funny enough to be likable and instead is just dick-ish enough to be, well, a dick. I'm all for a wise-cracking anti-hero who doesn't play by the rules, but when he's an irredeemable macho-man with bad jokes it's hard to root for him.
There's something wrong with Pearce here. He exudes an I-don't-give-a-crap-about-this-movie vibe the entire time he's on screen. He delivers lines like, "You're a big girl, right? Here's an apple and a gun. Don't talk to strangers, shoot them," with the comedic precision of a bored stand-up comedian who's just going through the routine. The entire time I couldn't help but think what Nic Cage would've done with this role. At least he would've given it his all (and then some) instead of moping around the movie delivering Luc Besson's laughably (maybe even admirably) stilted dialogue without a hint of enjoyment. His only inspired back-and-forth comes when he's being beaten up by one of Peter Stormare's henchman. Stormare says, "I can have Rupert bludgeon you all night." To which Pearce responds, "I'm being beaten up by a guy called Rupert?" In that single smartass remark is hope that you're in for a fun frolic in space filled with Guy Pearce killing people with a smirk on his face. Sadly, the smirk fades and so does any hope that the movie will even be likable on a guilty pleasure scale.
As soon as Pearce is commanded to get himself into the space prison the entire movie switches on auto-pilot and proceeds to fall from orbit, burning up in the atmosphere. Even the burning isn't spectacular to watch. More like a fizzling piece of space rock disintegrating into nothingness.
I wanted so badly to enjoy 'Lockout.' I like Pearce, I have fun with Besson's action schlock, and I was even impressed by the production values for a movie that received a somewhat limited release. Yet, when the main character – as charismatic as the actor may be in his other films – is essentially left for dead once his bad-boy couldn't-care-less antics wear off. After that there's not much more to this film other than Maggie Grace's improbable slack-jawed I'm-scared face and a hunk of metal floating around innnnnn spaaaaaaace!.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Distributed by Sony, 'Lockout' comes on a 50GB Blu-ray Disc, is packaged in a standard keepcase, and provided a slipcover with the same artwork as the case. This is tagged as the "unrated edition," but I didn't see the movie in theaters so I can't really tell you what, if anything, is different from the theatrical release. An UltraViolet Digital Copy is included. Finally, it's indicated on the case that this release will work for both A and B regions.
As dank, murky, and dark as the picture is 'Lockout' comes out looking stunningly good in 1080p. Barring a couple unintentionally hilarious semi-low-budget special effects sequences, the rest of the movie looks really good.
In the darkened corridors of the space prison, shadows are plentiful and revealing. Shadows never crush. Instead the deep blacks of the picture accentuate Pearce's hero-stubble and the numerous scrapes and abrasions he suffers during the film. This is one of those movies where people are dirty, bloody, and sweaty the whole time. Dirt (where does dirt come from in space?) is clearly visible on tattered, grungy prison uniforms. Crimson blood drips down faces and shines in pools on the ground whenever someone is relieved of having a life. Sweat glistens, and during close-ups it's perfectly easy to see individual beads forming on brows and cheeks.
When it comes to faces and textures, 'Lockout's detail really excels. There is a moment during the beginning, where Pearce is involved in a futuristic motorcycle chase that looks horribly green-screened. It's the only special effects sequence in the movie where I felt that the high-def picture actually played to its detriment. I really liked the design and industrial detail of the space prison, along with its grungy insides, but that motorcycle chase with its videogame-esque graphics looked rather silly in 1080p. Other than that though, this is a stunningly awesome movie to look at. If only it were as fun to watch.
Well, if you were hoping for demo-worthy audio that will shake the very walls of your media room then you're in for a treat. Sony's 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix makes the already explosion-y movie seem even more explosion-y. Fiery explosions (as impossible as they are in space) give the sound stage a mighty force with which it wields low-end room-shaking sonics. The sub-woofer is constantly engaged in bringing the movie's constant explosions straight at your ears.
Dialogue is always clear, even though there are multiple explosions going on simultaneously. The rear channels pick up the chaos produced by the prison riot and fling it at you like you're standing directly in the middle. Directionality of gunshots is splendid. Bullets whiz by from right to left. Shotguns blast directly through the center channel giving a nice bit of oomph as they do. Clarity and fidelity are top-notch. If you pick up 'Lockout' on Blu-ray you'll be ecstatic with the way it sounds.
'Lockout' felt like it had guilty pleasure written all over it, so I was disappointed I was so bored much of the time, not by the look of the movie or its explosion-filled sound design, but by Pearce's lackadaisical take on his character. He lacked the charisma he's shown he's capable of in other movies. Without a main character to love, the rest of the movie falls by the wayside. At least it has very capable video and great audio to keep you company. I guess we can chalk this one up to being a good disc, but a bad flick.