Skip to main content

Okay, we’re in space now, so it’s not North. It’s port and starboard.

Lockout
(2012)

(SPOILERS) Luc Besson’s “original idea” may have been found guilty of plagiarising both Escape from New York and Escape from L.A. (although, the idea that anyone would want to steal from the sequel…), but the real shame of Lockout is that it wasn’t a Snake Plissken movie. Which isn’t to suggest it’s a whole lot more than a routine actioner with a no-frills, at-best-serviceable screenplay, yet such credentials still put it way out ahead of either L.A. or the at-one-time Escape 3, Ghosts of Mars.

Besson’s producing oeuvre has been shamelessly chock full of derivative man (or woman) on a mission fare, sometimes elevated by inventive direction, at others by an amusing performance. Much more rarely by the writing (perhaps unsurprisingly, since Besson has upwards of forty story/screenplay credits since 2000 alone, and that isn’t including TV). And rarer still when Oliver Megaton is involved. SF has tended to remain in Besson’s directorial domain, however, and he clearly knows one of the keys to quality SF is world building. Both The Fifth Element and Valerian: City of a Thousand Planets were sumptuous visual feasts (even if the latter fell down in numerous other respects). Escape from New York, meanwhile, had an arresting premise combined with a larger-than-life hero and tantalising slivers of future history.

Unfortunately Lockout, being a Besson churn-em-out quickie, can’t be bothered with such inventiveness. The proceedings are set in space, 2079, with the protagonist sentenced to space prison MS One, where the President’s daughter has just been taken hostage (I know, right – what was Carpenter thinking in suing?) Despite this orbital premise, directors Stephen Saint Leger and James Mather tend to emphasise the earthiness of this clink as much as possible. Sure, there’s a space ague from being in stasis so long, but otherwise, much of what you see here wouldn’t look too out of place in an Escape Plan or Lock Up. Mather is principally a cinematographer, making his feature debut, while Leger double duties as both a director and AD (mostly on Vikings, it seems). Both also receive co-writing credits. Neither has a feature or script to their name since.

Which you might think speaks volumes. It might be a response to Lockout’s relative box office failure, of course. But neither does a bad job in either department. Basic, certainly. There’s some choppy editing (possibly a consequence of editing for PG-13 although it was 15 in UK), and some naff CGI, but for the most part, they deliver where its important: in the action stakes. Where they definitely stumble, however, is in offering anything in the way of memorable characters.

Guy Pearce’s Snow isn’t even a Plissken clone; he only appears not to give a shit, but really, he’s a good guy CIA guy (I know, a contradiction in terms). He even brokers a tentative romance with Maggie Grace’s president’s daughter (so nothing like Snake; any women he meets end up dead). Snow also comes equipped with some absolutely dreadful one-liners (“His name was fuck you… Yeah, he was Asian”). That you end up liking him is entirely down to Pearce’s charisma. So much so, I’d have been quite happy to see another Marion Snow adventure (Pearce seems to have been more commonly taking supporting parts of late, which is a shame, particularly when he’s called on to provide straightforward villainy).

Grace is fine as privileged progeny Emilie; presumably, Besson gave her the role as recompense for the ridiculous daughter in distress of the Takens. In which case, he still owes her big time. Peter Stormare trots out hard-nut Peter Stormare on autopilot. Lennie James trots out sympathetic Lennie James. Vincent Regan and Joseph Gilgun make more impact as the criminal brother duo, one older and more seasoned, the other a buy-eyed nutcase. Gilgun attracts all the attention, but despite that, his is an entirely familiar swivel-eyed crazy and not especially rewarding (it’s also a relationship that, unwisely, is indebted to, amongst others, From Dusk Til Dawn).

The last ten minutes are a jumble of expository twists exposing the real bad guy, getting Snow off the hook and giving him the location of the stolen secrets: all of which only serves to emphasise that nothing in the set up mattered at all, because Leger, Mather and Besson completely failed to make these stakes count for anything. That shouldn’t be surprising, as they’ve created no sense whatsoever of this 2079 world. Even Carpenter manages that in Escape from L.A. Lockout is basically 2012, but with a big space prison. I think it’s pretty clear 2079 won’t be like that. The big prison won’t be in space for a start.



Popular posts from this blog

You were this amazing occidental samurai.

Ricochet (1991) (SPOILERS) You have to wonder at Denzel Washington’s agent at this point in the actor’s career. He’d recently won his first Oscar for Glory , yet followed it with less-than-glorious heart-transplant ghost comedy Heart Condition (Bob Hoskins’ racist cop receives Washington’s dead lawyer’s ticker; a recipe for hijinks!) Not long after, he dipped his tentative toe in the action arena with this Joel Silver production; Denzel has made his share of action fare since, of course, most of it serviceable if unremarkable, but none of it comes near to delivering the schlocky excesses of Ricochet , a movie at once ingenious and risible in its plot permutations, performances and production profligacy.

No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

The Matrix  (1999) (SPOILERS) Twenty years on, and the articles are on the defining nature of The Matrix are piling up, most of them touching on how its world has become a reality, or maybe always was one. At the time, its premise was engaging enough, but it was the sum total of the package that cast a spell – the bullet time, the fashions, the soundtrack, the comic book-as-live-action framing and styling – not to mention it being probably the first movie to embrace and reflect the burgeoning Internet ( Hackers doesn’t really count), and subsequently to really ride the crest of the DVD boom wave. And now? Now it’s still really, really good.

Well, something’s broke on your daddy’s spaceship.

Apollo 13 (1995) (SPOILERS) The NASA propaganda movie to end all NASA propaganda movies. Their original conception of the perilous Apollo 13 mission deserves due credit in itself; what better way to bolster waning interest in slightly naff perambulations around a TV studio than to manufacture a crisis event, one emphasising the absurd fragility of the alleged non-terrestrial excursions and the indomitable force that is “science” in achieving them? Apollo 13 the lunar mission was tailor made for Apollo 13 the movie version – make believe the make-believe – and who could have been better to lead this fantasy ride than Guantanamo Hanks at his all-American popularity peak?

I can’t be the worst. What about that hotdog one?

Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) (SPOILERS) It would have been a merciful release, had the title card “ The End ”, flashing on screen a little before the ninety-minute mark, not been a false dawn. True, I would still have been unable to swab the bloody dildoes fight from my mind, but at least Everything Everywhere All at Once would have been short. Indeed, by the actual end I was put in mind of a line spoken by co-star James Wong in one of his most indelible roles: “ Now this really pisses me off to no end ”. Or to put it another way, Everything Everywhere All at Once rubbed me up the wrong which way quite a lot of most of the time.

We’ve got the best ball and chain in the world. Your ass.

Wedlock (1991) (SPOILERS) The futuristic prison movie seemed possessed of a particular cachet around this time, quite possibly sparked by the grisly possibilities of hi-tech disincentives to escape. On that front, HBO TV movie Wedlock more than delivers its FX money shot. Elsewhere, it’s less sure of itself, rather fumbling when it exchanges prison tropes for fugitives-on-the-run ones.

Drank the red. Good for you.

Morbius (2022) (SPOILERS) Generic isn’t necessarily a slur. Not if, by implication, it’s suggestive of the kind of movie made twenty years ago, when the alternative is the kind of super-woke content Disney currently prioritises. Unfortunately, after a reasonable first hour, Morbius descends so resignedly into such unmoderated formula that you’re left with a too-clear image of Sony’s Spider-Verse when it lacks a larger-than-life performer (Tom Hardy, for example) at the centre of any given vehicle.

So, you’re telling me that NASA is going to kill the President of the United States with an earthquake?

Conspiracy Theory (1997) (SPOILERS) Mel Gibson’s official rehabilitation occurred with the announcement of 2016’s Oscar nominations, when Hacksaw Ridge garnered six nods, including Mel as director. Obviously, many refuse to be persuaded that there’s any legitimate atonement for the things someone says. They probably weren’t even convinced by Mel’s appearance in Daddy’s Home 2 , an act of abject obeisance if ever there was one. In other circles, though, Gibbo, or Mad Mel, is venerated as a saviour unsullied by the depraved Hollywood machine, one of the brave few who would not allow them to take his freedom. Or at least, his values. Of course, that’s frequently based on alleged comments he made, ones it’s highly likely he didn’t. But doesn’t that rather appeal to the premise of his 23-year-old star vehicle Conspiracy Theory , in which “ A good conspiracy theory is an unproveable one ”?

He’ll regret it to his dying day, if ever he lives that long.

The Quiet Man (1952) (SPOILERS) The John Wayne & John Ford film for those who don’t like John Wayne & John Ford films? The Quiet Man takes its cues from Ford’s earlier How Green Was My Valley in terms of, well less Anglophile and Hibernophile and Cambrophile nostalgia respectively for past times, climes and heritage, as Wayne’s pugilist returns to his family seat and stirs up a hot bed of emotions, not least with Maureen O’Hara’s red-headed hothead. The result is a very likeable movie, for all its inculcated Oirishness and studied eccentricity.

He doesn’t want to lead you. He just wants you to follow.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022) (SPOILERS) The general failing of the prequel concept is a fairly self-evident one; it’s spurred by the desire to cash in, rather than to tell a story. This is why so few prequels, in any form, are worth the viewer/reader/listener’s time, in and of themselves. At best, they tend to be something of a well-rehearsed fait accompli. In the movie medium, even when there is material that withstands closer inspection (the Star Wars prequels; The Hobbit , if you like), the execution ends up botched. With Fantastic Beasts , there was never a whiff of such lofty purpose, and each subsequent sequel to the first prequel has succeeded only in drawing attention to its prosaic function: keeping franchise flag flying, even at half-mast. Hence Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore , belatedly arriving after twice the envisaged gap between instalments and course-correcting none of the problems present in The Crimes of Grindelwald .

Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.

Bugsy (1991) (SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.