Guy Pearce’s cynical anti-hero Snow doesn’t sport a black eye-patch in sci-fi action thriller Lockout but otherwise he’s a dead ringer for Kurt Russell’s Snake Plissken. The resemblance isn’t a surprise: producer Luc Besson has pretty much taken the plot of Escape from New York and blasted it into outer space.
Like Snake, Snow is a cool dude tasked with breaking into a futuristic maximum security prison and rescuing a VIP hostage, a mission requiring bouts of ultra-violence and a stream of laconic one-liners. Here the prison isn’t the island of Manhattan but the orbiting space penitentiary MS One, where 500 violent scumbags are being kept docile in cryogenic deep freeze. And the hostage in peril isn’t the US president but the president’s daughter (the captive, likewise, in John Carpenter’s Escape from LA sequel).
She’s Maggie Grace’s naïve do-gooder Emilie Warnock and it’s her humanitarian mission to monitor the prisoners’ wellbeing on MS One that goes pear-shaped and triggers a mass breakout led by a Glaswegian hard nut and his mad-as-a-bag-of-snakes brother (Vincent Regan and Joseph Gilgun). Having decided that the other hostages are expendable, the men in suits back on Earth decide to dispatch stitched-up agent-turned-convict Snow on a solo rescue mission.
We’ve seen it all before, of course, but Irish directing duo James Mather and Stephen St Leger (makers of sci-fi short Prey Alone) somehow keep the ludicrous plot on the rails, notwithstanding some iffy effects that make Pearce in one early sequence look like a figure in a dodgy video game. He never loses his cool, though (why else call him Snow), trading quips between blows while being brutally interrogated (his gags are literal punch-lines) and dispatching his foes with muscular panache. Whether you call it rip-off or homage, Lockout’s guilty-pleasure mix of explosive action and tongue-in-cheek humour is mightily enjoyable.
Movie Talk star rating:
On general release from Friday 20th April.