There was once a time when I would have defended any output by Luc Besson with the ferocity of a professional assassin looking after a small child. To the depths of the big blue, for Luc I would have fought my last battle, willing to let myself be burned at the pyre in his honour. Now, the mere mention of his name attached as a producer – or his greatest cop-out “An Idea By…” – sends me cowering in a bullet ridden kitchen wearing a sexy little black dress. Or something.
So from an “idea by” Luc Besson – presumably formed after eating an entire wheel of Camembert while falling asleep to Escape From New York – comes the wholly unoriginal tale of Guy Pierce’s maverick Snow and his attempts to save the life of the President’s daughter on board a space ship prison. Armed with a million one-liners and a John McClane sensibility, Snow must battle 500 rowdy prisoners, clear his name while unearthing a conspiracy and save the girl. If only he wasn’t such a loose cannon…
In the star rating system adopted by most film reviewers the rank goes from one star to five. ‘Five’ being unmissable, ground-breaking, earth-shattering content with ‘One’ being avoid at all costs, even if it means killing a loved one so an unexpected funeral means Movie Night is cancelled this week. Lockout is one of those few treasures that needs a different classification. We present the ‘minus one star’.
A ‘minus one star’ film is not strictly devoid of merit. It is not something to be ignored or avoided. Instead it should be actively embraced and chortled at with side-rupturing gusto. Showgirls is a ‘minus one star’ film. As is The Room (actually that’s possibly a minus two). It’s the kind of film that is either borderline genius in a Garth Marenghi kind-of-way or it’s been constructed by someone who needs assistance to defecate. There will be those that argue the tongue-in-cheek defence in regards to Lockout and fair play to them for trying. But no matter how firmly your food taster is nestled into your jowls there are so many things that a film for general consumption is not allowed to do. Lockout does them all.
Not that it isn’t without it’s virtues. Guy Pierce may struggle to entirely convince as a real tough guy, but he plays the Philip Marlowe-esque, wisecracking, down on his luck hero with a skill the film frankly doesn’t deserve. After a few years of solid supporting turns in every great film from The Hurt Locker to The King’s Speech and The Road, it’s about time he had 90 minutes to shine. In the rogue’s camp This Is England‘s loveable Woody and new Misfit, Joseph Gilgun, delivers a Highland nutjob of Begbie proportions. Begbie by way of Brad Pitt in Kalifornia, by way of Scotch tramp.
Another perverse pleasure can be found in counting the movie steals directors James Mather and Stephen St. Ledger think they can get away with. From Con Air and Face/Off to the obvious Escape From New York to the frankly baffling rips on Star Wars Episodes I, IV and VI. These ‘homages’ are just one of the reasons you start to wonder if the film-makers have ever seen a film before, going after the clichés and stereotypes so robustly that is almost feels daring.
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Over the over the top villainy, dialogue that defines expositional, plot revelations delivered with globe rocking intensity and constant on-screen text delivering locations and character information regardless of whether we’ve visited the place and been introduced to the person in question before. If the now infamous “He’s the best there is but he’s a loose cannon” line hadn’t been excised from the final film – it’s still in the trailer – the ‘intentionally ironic’ card might have had a better chance of winning. As it is, the editor has removed the one safety net guaranteed to make it a cult classic.
He’s also ruined my opening paragraph about wanting to write a film about a “tight cannon”. Not surprisingly said “tight cannon” will be fairly inadequate.
Lookout, Luc’s about. Another plop from the man once responsible for the extraordinary brilliance of Leon and Nikita. It might not leave the kind of nasty misogynistic taste in the mouth that Taken and From Paris With Love did (although some scenes come close) and it may be funnier than any comedy released so far this year, but without meaning to be, it’s hard to give Lockout much credit.