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Manuel de Layet [Celluloid 04.04.12] France scifi action thriller

Year: 2012
Directors: James Mather & Stephen St. Leger
Writers: James Mather & Stephen St. Leger & Luc Besson
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: The Crystal Ferret
Rating: 6 out of 10

How many times can a movie change names in the course of its life? This, for example, started under the working title of District 8, but in the aftermath of District 9, a name change was in order. Now, depending on where you live, it’s either called Maximum Security One or Lockout and I’m still not sure what will be on the billboards. The only certainty is that it has nothing to do with prawns.

What we have here is a seemingly average action movie and in most aspects it is. Not that the movie isn’t good, quite the contrary in fact, but it's tough to go all slobbery over a movie whose pitch is “A man, “Snow”, wrongly convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage against the U.S., is offered his freedom if he can rescue the president's daughter from an outer space prison taken over by violent inmates.” So, Escape from NY in space? As far as space adventures go, this could be the corniest of all pitches.

So perhaps it can’t get much cheesier, but executed correctly, with proper style and tongue-in-cheek attitude it can work and that’s exactly what is delivered here. Lockout is almost a parody on the genre: Psychopathic inmates covered up in tattoos - check; Emphasis on the shotgun and small explosives - check; Shady CIA operatives and the Archetype of the futuristic anti-hero, all muscles, antipathy and bad jokes. – damn yeah!

And when I say bad jokes think of the space marines in the first StarCraft or Deadpool on a really bad day.

The whole thing relies heavily on two simple things: the actors and the rhythm of the sequences. It works so well that you overlook the fact that there is only one décor to everything. It’s a space station, even more it’s a human space prison, so we are in corridors most of the time, grey and shiny I concede, but corridors nonetheless. Don’t go in there with hope of seeing glorious renditions of deep space exploration and humongous star cruisers zooming around past curious indigenous life... The atmosphere here is more intimate, focusing on the inmates.

There are a few outdoor scenes including a car chase on Earth and an obligatory assault-on-space-station-with-turrets-and-things-whizzing about, but sadly they feel both contrived and boring, without even mentioning that the car chase looks like an FMV from “Final Fantasy VII,” which might have been cutting edge in its time but now is now underwhelming and doesn’t live up to the standard we can decently expect from a big studio release.

Yet I really enjoyed Lockout because, you see, what makes it a truly exhilarating ride isn’t the contrived CG but the humans, the relationships and interactions between the characters.

It might be a new stage in the evolution of the anti-hero persona. Your usual antihero is always witty and gruff up to a point bordering insubordination, with Snow we are into downright and open mutiny. I think some of his retorts are going to pass into mainstream use, like the “if it bleeds we can kill it” migrated from Predator to pop culture canon.

The execution is not exempt of flaws, far from it even, but on the overall this movie is the perfect Saturday night filler. As soon as it’s out on DVD it will join my rotation along with Demolition Man, The Rundown and Last Action Hero.

Pass me a beer and press play.

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Grimwinder (10 years ago) Reply

Rescue the President's daughter? That would be Escape From L.A. in space, not Escape From New York ;).


Kari (10 years ago) Reply

Where did you find this??

I will watch anything by Luc Besson ... the cinematography along is ethereal ... and to get a new sci-fi film is simply devine.


Candy (10 years ago) Reply

Why is it that so many people with limited knowledge of film and limited writing ability feel compelled to write about film? Should you not leave it for those that actually took the time to learn about the subject?


Nobody calls me Lebowski (10 years ago) Reply

@Candy -- "Why is it that so many people with limited knowledge of film and limited writing ability feel compelled to write about film? Should you not leave it for those that actually took the time to learn about the subject?"

-- Got to love it when the douchey film Nazis blast the film critics. Like this earlier memorable interaction between Candy and The Crystal Ferret:

[Candy shows the porn video starring Bunny to the Ferret]
Sherry in 'Logjammin': [on video] You must be here to fix the cable.
Candy: Lord. You can imagine where it goes from here.
The Ferret: He fixes the cable?
Candy: Don't be fatuous, Jeffrey.


Michael Allen (10 years ago) Reply

@Candy You are an asshat.

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