Tuesday 24 April 2012

Review: Lockout

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

Lockout poster

110 mins / Dir. James Mather , Stephen St. Leger

Let me get this straight, you've made Escape from New York with Mike out of Neighbours and Eli Dingle out of Emmerdale Farm, yeah? Mental...

The Plot: A man 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.

The Good: So is this what happens when game-designers write a screenplay? Our hero Snow (no, don't laugh - it gets sillier in the film, but I won't spoil that) has a brief backstory introduction (read: cutscene) at the start, then gets his overall mission which is broken down into smaller tasks (read: levels) and maguffins to chase, and even has a remote guide once he's on the prison-station which acts as a mapping system and health-monitor for the president's daughter. Downtime between action sequences is filled with heavy exposition from Snow's guides back on the police-station which serve to outline exactly what's going to happen for the next 15 minutes or so.
It's so transparently like a game that I can't help but admire it; especially as most game-to-movie conversions are nowhere near as enjoyable as this.

And that's the odd thing. I found Lockout immensely fun, even though just about every aspect of the film has been flogged to death in the past. A brisk script helps matters (when they're not explaining things patiently to Snow / The Audience), and as silly as the concept clearly is, all the cast are playing it as straight as the script will allow. Many (and I mean many) of Guy Pearce's lines are the kind of dry witticisms that would fall flat or be overkill with other actors. But Guy aims for John McClane and manages to come out closer to Han Solo a lot of the time, and he's ridiculously likeable, if not at all original, as the rogue-hero of the movie.

The other thing that sets it apart from its contemporaries is the large amount of British casting (not 'all', but a lot of the key roles, certainly), and having the two lead inmates sport Scottish accents was a nice touch, even if they were brothers but didn't sound like they came from the same part of Scotland. Joseph Gilgun (Eli from Emmerdale, Woody from This is England) had enormous fun as the loose cannon Hydell, an inmate that's a beserker even among his peers. Lennie James (Morgan from The Walking Dead, Sol from Snatch) is also on good form and manages to put in quite an understated performance, albeit with his weird Massachusetts accent going on.

And other than that it's just, sling on the body armour, grab a shotgun, stay alive, infiltrate a prison, stay alive, rescue the girl before the prison sinks back into the Earth's atmosphere or is destroyed by the government, stay alive and be witty while you're doing it. And maybe prove your innocence as well. It won't be the greatest film you ever see, but it doesn't try to be anything other than a big noisy rollercoaster; it's only practical purpose is your enjoyment.

Oh, and there's a Wilhelm Scream too, which always makes me smile.

The Bad: Location/character title frames that are on-screen for too short a time to read, ridiculously fast cutting between shots and mumbled/garbled dialogue make the first 10 minutes of the film a little like hard work. Then you either acclimatise to this, or realise that the names and exposition aren't that important; I couldn't quite figure out which.

The Ugly: The credits feature a title card saying "Based on an original idea by Luc Besson". I'd contest the accuracy of that statement.

All-in-all: Don't take it at all seriously and you'll have a lot of fun.


• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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