There’s a famous Hollywood joke about how you can describe any action movie over the past twenty years as something like ”Die Hard in an orbital maximum-security prison.” That would be the one that applies to the very entertaining Lockout, a movie that is Die Hard by way of Star Wars by way of Blade Runner by way of La Femme Nikita by way of The Fifth Element by way of Escape from New York by way of Big Trouble in Little China. And probably by way of Die Hard seven more times.
The idea of Lockout, directed by James Mather and Steven St. Clair, is lifted from many sources, including Luc Besson, who is credited for the original idea. It shares the French director’s zany sci-fi sensibility best displayed in The Fifth Element. If the Fspacerench love John Carpenter, it certainly shows in the plot. Similar to Escape from New York, the president’s daughter is lost during a prison riot at a futuristic maximum security prison in space. She must rely on a noble convict to protect and save her from the prison’s distasteful elements.
If you’re one of those people who get blue in the face about the style lately labeled “chaos cinema,” you might as well stop at the door. Perverse camera movement is about the only checklist item Lockout doesn’t have. The rapid editing carves out time only for maybe four establishment shots. Behavioral and emotional states in one scene exist free of the last scene. The damsel in distress is in terror in one scene and flirting the next.
There’s no sense of rational geography, and it completely unwires logical time. There’s also a gunshot wound that causes no pain or limp–new meaning to the term superficial wound.
You do have to love Guy Pearce and his convict protagonist, Snow, who appears to communicate only in wisecracks, usually funny ones. He instantly reminds you of Die Hard’s John McClain. But he’s maybe more like Kurt Russell’s hilariously over-the top Jack Burton in Little China. He isn’t a real person thrust intoa movie plot. He’s a product of a world created by movie plots.
Maybe the most interesting thing about Lockout is the suggestion that the peculiarities of chaos cinema are established enough to be fodder for satire. Many of the checklist items mentioned above are actually played for comic effect, such as a woman trying to figure out a space station map in a movie without clean geography. Bad lines are eliminated by voice-activated explosives. The final soft landing becomes a humorously literal soft landing.
Lockout is trying to do satire while delivering a speedy action movie, and until the third act, it delivers a satire that is also a speedy action movie. It may have no link to reality. And it may not be loaded with things we’ve never seen before. In an artistic landscape where everything is derivative and so little is original, the real battle is being so inventive enough with your lifts that everyone wants to play along.