Pearce should have bailed out of 'Lockout'
Posted April 12, 2012
Guy Pearce is an actor with an unusually canny ear for scripts: Memento, L.A. Confidential, The King's Speech.
So what was he doing anywhere near Lockout (* ½ out of four, rated PG-13, opens Friday nationwide), a putrid film that comes dead-weighted with hammy one-liners and a plot so silly it borders on comedy?
The laughs don't come intentionally here. Directed by feature-film newcomers James Mather and Stephen St. Leger, who co-wrote the script, Lockout wants to be Aliens 3-meets-Die Hard. But it doesn't muster the tension or energy to come within a galaxy of either.
The film is set in 2079. Pearce plays Snow, an ex-CIA super-operative framed for the murder of his partner. He's sentenced to 30 years on MS One, a prison orbiting Earth.
The premise — that prisoners are induced into comas to keep them docile — is promising. The cast, including Pearce, Maggie Grace and Coen brothers favorite Peter Stormare, is enough to anchor any picture.
But there is no overcoming this mess of a plot, which calls for Emilie (Grace), the president's daughter, to lead an investigation of abuses on MS One. It doesn't take long (or much) for a prisoner to break free, kidnap Emilie and unfreeze hundreds of inmates.
No need for the military or police. This job requires one man, Snow, whose first name is kept secret until the film's end, perhaps for dramatic tension.
There isn't much else to keep you guessing, except trying to figure out the actors' motives. Pearce, who made a career out of retrospective heroes, must have wanted to play an action hero. And he beefs up well.
But his one-liners, often uttered through a cigarette or gum, can be laughably clunky. If he isn't dropping clichéd lines, he's the subject of them: "He's the best there is," one agent says. "But he's a loose cannon."
The villains are fine, led by Vincent Regan and Joe Gilgun. There's also a funny visual joke involving Snow, his cigarette and an interrogation.
But none of this is worth the time. Space scenes do little more than justify special effects, which pale in comparison to a good video game. If you're asked to see Lockout, try to have your sentence commuted.
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