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Monday, July 16, 2012


Oh yeah, a couple of things also came out this past weekend. This is the first.

You know, it's funny that in the same weekend I gave the new Spider-man a bit of grief for retelling its hero's origin story, I am confronted with a film that truly puts Spidey's "unoriginality" in perspective. Lockout is far from a terrible film but never before has the phrase "based on an original idea by Luc Besson" been so hilariously ironic.

Besson has already given us Die Hard in the future with the admittedly terrific The Fifth Element and now he's giving us what is essentially Con Air in space, with a bit of Demolition Man and Attack on Pelham 1 2 3 thrown in for good measure. This is especially brilliant because Con Air was always basically just Die Hard on a jet plane in the first place. "Derivative" doesn't even begin to describe Lockout.

See if you can guess where this plot goes: In the not too distant future, the most ruthless criminals are sent to a special prison on the moon where they are to serve their sentences as human icicles in cryogenic sleep but after a particularly bloodthirsty prisoner escapes from captivity, he frees his fellow prisoners and holds the prison, its personnel and the US president's visiting daughter hostage. It is up to a disgraced cop who is about to be sent to that very prison for A Crime He Didn't Commit to quell the uprising and save the president's daughter.

Derivative? You can basically see the dots of this paint-by-numbers story. It is also tremendously stupid with a central premise - freezing criminals and sending them to the moon so that they can wake up with less than zero chance of being rehabilitated or even so much as remembering their imprisonment - that is more head-scratchingly bewildering than even the dumbest of direct-to-DVD scifi actioners - and it plays out every bit as moronically as the worst of those bottom-shelf masterpieces. It is, very simply, really, really dumb.

It is also happens to be really rather good fun. This is not a film that has pretensions beyond its station - it understands exactly how trashy, how stupid and how throwaway it ultimately is and, it has to be said, it takes full advantage of its c-movie trappings. Guy Pierce effectively comes across as mix between Bruce Willis and Jason Statham at their action hero best as a wise-cracking, bad-ass supercop and, really, what else could you want from this sort of schlock?

An early action set piece in the film did have me worried that this would carry on in the dishonourable tradition of the headache-inducing, edited-by-a-kid-with-ADHD action scenes of all too many modern action films but it gets significantly less troubling from that point on. We're not talking John Woo here but the action scenes are fine. By the same token, we're hardly talking Terry Gilliam or Christopher Nolan in terms of visual style but the film largely looks OK. And, needless to say, Lockout is suspenseful enough but this ain't Hitchcock we're talking about here.

Ultimately, there is no way that anyone outside a few die-hard (heh) action junkies would recommend paying full movie ticket prices for a film this unremarkable but if you can see it cheap or come across it in the budget bin of your nearest video store then give it a shot. It's rubbish but it's fun - and to the film's great credit, it clearly knows that too.

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