Ah, 2079! It was the best of times, it was the worst of times — at least in the dark, futuristic world of Lockout's criminal justice system.
If an offender is convicted of a heinous crime against society, he can be sent to a floating space prison, frozen like a Popsicle and carved up like a lab rat. On the bright side, security at the prison is spectacularly lax. There are worse trade-offs.
Going to see Lockout is the same deal: It's a good-news-but-mostly-bad-news sort of movie. The film stars Guy Pearce as the standard wisecracking tough guy, who jokes even when he's getting punched in the face.
Pearce gets into his groove swiftly, owns it and remains entertaining throughout. The rest of the movie would work better as a video game. There's plenty of repetitive action of the run/hide/shoot/kill variety, but it's not visually interesting, so you'd probably have more fun operating the controller yourself.
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Pearce plays Snow, a squinty bad-ass convicted of espionage after an old Secret Service buddy gets killed and Snow is blamed. When all hell breaks loose at M.S. One, a formidable space prison for the worst of the worst, Snow gets a reprieve from lengthy incarceration. Decision-making grounded in stupidity and plot contrivance has allowed a deranged convict (a truly scary Joseph Gilgun) to escape, and he has freed all his buddies, who take over the prison during a visit by the president's daughter Emilie (Maggie Grace, Taken and Lost). Because that's just where you want the president's daughter to be: at a poorly guarded prison full of murderers and sex offenders that you need a space shuttle to access.
Snow agrees to rescue her, of course, but he has a secret agenda that he hopes will prove his innocence once he sneaks onto M.S. One (turns out it's slightly easier to stealthily board an isolated floating prison than it is to write a script that makes sense). Good thing Snow can multitask. The mission is dangerous, almost impossible, and crazy tattooed freaks are trying to kill them at every turn, but Snow and Emilie find time for cute banter.
Their tiresome sparring is what passes for character development in Lockout. The movie has no intention of wasting time on something so pedestrian as making us care about the characters, and that's fine. Anyone interested in this movie just wants to see things blow up.
But with no memorable action — the government's final solution to the stand-off even robs us of the fun of seeing the nastiest villain get his comeuppance — there's nothing much to engage the imagination. Garden-variety explosions and gunfire go only so far. At least if you were playing it as a game, Lockout would get you involved. As it is, watching it feels more like skirting the edge of a black hole.