Reviewed by: David Graham

Luc Besson's adventures in producing have thrown up several technically accomplished but oh-so-guilty pleasures over the years, especially in the action arena, with the likes of Jet Li's Western career highlight Kiss Of The Dragon, a pair of parkour-showcasing District 13s and the Statham-establishing Transporter series. He's even cannily got behind some bona-fide breakout success stories such as the critically lauded Tell No One, ground-breaking Muay Thai odyssey Ong-Bak and nouveau horror favourite Switchblade Romance. More often than not though, he's happy to merely pimp out his once-credible name and febrile imagination for instantly forgettable Euro-flavored money-spinners, like some inverse Michael Bay who gets his kicks from the opposite end of the budget pool. Despite Besson's inventive premise and the presence of the usually reliable Guy Pearce, Lockout represents the nadir of this career trajectory.

Sometime in the not too distant future, rogue government agent Snow has been apprehended for a crime he never committed. Sentenced to long-term cryogenic stasis - a practice which sees prisoners often wake up suffering from dementia - Snow is co-erced into accepting a mission to infiltrate a maximum-security orbital compound where the president's daughter has been taken hostage by hundreds of rampaging criminals. With an ulterior motive driving him, Snow must keep his feisty charge safe while evading an army of thugs who may be even more psychotic than when they were locked up.

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An impressively bulked-up Pearce's tight-fit T-shirt reads 'Warning - Offensive', a sentiment which could well be a subliminal apology from debut French directors Saint and Mather: Lockout plays on chauvinism for laughs and is chock-full of desperate stereotypes. As if their portrayal of Scots isn't narrow enough - why settle for one homicidal Highland nutter when you can have two? - the directors also incorporate a most pathetic portrayal of mental health breakdown, the sufferers reduced in an unnecessarily distasteful flourish to either cannon fodder or spouters of ridiculous riddle.

Taking pitiful potshots at political sitting ducks, their script is neither as smart as they obviously think or as dumb as it should be, lacking the knowing goofiness that made Battleship so charming despite its crass patriotic streak. The ice-cold nihilism of the John Carpenter flicks that Lockout plunders is also absent, with Pearce's anti-hero veering between bored and boorish when he's not camping it up as if to reassure us that he does indeed know better than to take any of this garbage seriously.

Maggie Grace's feminine foil doesn't fare much better, at one point lumbered with the least convincing drag act since Angelina Jolie in Salt; this is either entirely appropriate or especially disappointing considering she's being 'transformed' by one of the cross-dressing stars of Priscilla: Queen Of The Desert. Meanwhile, reliable thesps Vincent Regan and Peter Stormare give good leer and apt sneer respectively as a steely bad guy and the secret service honcho cracking the whip. However, it's an unrecognizable Joseph Gilgun (This Is England's Woody) who steals (appropriately enough) every scene he slithers through by pulling off a pitch-perfect ned pastiche, his sheer maniacal energy just about compensating for some constant caricature-ish tics.

Front-loaded with some appallingly shoddy CGI - this isn't even Xbox-grade; your old Megadrive would turn its 16-bit nose up - and packed with dialogue that seems overly desperate to induce the cringe-factor, Lockout is an embarrassing mess from start to finish. An occasionally agreeable whiff of fromage isn't enough to excuse such amateurish film-making, the plot descending into abject incoherence as all notions of logic and scientific credibility increasingly fly out the window.

It all depends how deliberately you think the film-makers are taking the piss, as well as your tolerance for said urine extraction. Occasional curve-ball dynamics brighten up a storyline stretched past breaking point, while the lack of gore will either be heartening or a let-down depending on your perspective. Crucially though, the film just isn't enough fun. Connoisseurs of crud may get a kick from laughing at Saint and Mather's effort as if it's some mentally deficient kid in the playground, but it really doesn't deserve even that level of appreciation. Lockout? You'd be wise to walk-out of this soul-destroying drivel, that is if you can't find it within yourself to just avoid it altogether. Besson, what are you thinking?

Reviewed on: 29 Apr 2012
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A wrongly convicted man is offered his freedom if he can rescue the president's daughter from space prison rioters.
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Director: James Mather, Stephen St Leger

Writer: Stephen St Leger, James Mather

Starring: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Peter Stormare, Joseph Gilgun

Year: 2012

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France, US


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