Normal service will be resumed soon, but I’m currently overwhelmed by a wave of enthusiasm for the cinema of Guy Pearce after reviewing Hateship Loveship yesterday and trying to get my head around his ridiculously consistent career choices. As well as the bounty of good performances mentioned yesterday, he’s an ideal lead opposite Robert Pattinson in intense sci-fi drama The Rover, opposite Samantha Mumba in HG Wells The Time Machine, or with Kate Winslet in Mare of Easttown, and that’s when he’s not playing real life notables like Errol Flynn or F Scott Fitzgerald in biopics. There’s literally nothing Guy Pearce cannot do well, and that includes Lockout; when you want to make a Die Hard film set in a space prison, and Bruce Willis isn’t available, Guy Pearce is absolutely the man for the job.
The year is 2079, and Marion Snow (Pearce) is a rough, buff and super-tough CIA operative who gets sentenced to thirty years the hard way on maximum security space penitentiary MS One, where the universe’s most extreme criminals are held in stasis; not surprisingly, they all seem to have Scottish accents. Snow is keen to recover a suitcase full of secret government documents he’s been tracking, but his mission gains immediate urgency when the President’s daughter Emile Warnock (Maggie Grace) is kidnapped during an ‘infraction’ on the space-slammer; can super-agent Snow rescue the girl, kill the baddies, and clear his own name with a ship of 500 crazed super-crims standing in his way?
Educated readers will note the similarities between this Eurocorp production and John Carpenter’s Snake Plissken films, and so did Carpenter, who sued for copyright theft and won, motivated by the fact he’s already written a ‘Snake Plissken in space’ movie yet to be made. But as tribute-acts go, Lockout is a rare example of a smart blockbuster, observing and twisting the genre clichés, and sporting a great wise-cracking hero in Marion Snow. ‘Are you thrilled with yourself all day long or is it just a part time job?’ asks Emile, but Snow has reason to have self-respect to the max. As an undercover operative, Snow is justifiably obnoxious to the low-lives he encounters, and although his superiors consider him to be mere cannon-fodder, Snow has John McClane’s way with one-liners, cigarettes, air vents, insolence, a super-cool explosive portal-device gadget, and even as a hairstylist when Emile needs a disguise to cross a prison yard packed with drooling maniacs.
Stephen Saint Leger and James Mather’s film gets the future-tech right, including docking space shuttles and stations, plus digital magazines and name-badges, the latter crucial for that Die Hard moment that the bad guys realise they’ve accidentally got the presidents daughter hostage. And the plot points are sharp here; there’s a bit of business about the combination lock on a briefcase that’s just great writing, and when Emile suggests their exit from the ship is north, Snow correctly replies ‘We’re in space now, so it’s port or starboard,’ demonstrating that tough guy dialogue can be sensible too. ‘I’m not actually Houdini,’ says Snow, presumably rifling through Guy Peace’s Linkedin CV for recent roles he’s already played, but he’s an absolutely terrific lead here. So many action films feature muscle-bound, aging lunk-headed Brick Lampjaw heroes, so it’s a treat that Marion Snow is young, smart, witty, caustic and brave; how hard is it to make a straight-up cool protagonist like this? We could all use another hero right now, and the presence of Guy Pearce’s peerless Marion Snow makes this Lockout something of a million megaton blast to behold.