Europa Corp looks set to expand upon its stable of storytellers and filmmakers, with Luc Besson once again lending his brand name to herald the introduction of first time feature writer-directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger by coming up with the story and premise, and letting them take everything from that launch point. So here comes Lockout, a futuristic science fiction that contains all the genre staples from the studio, with a recognizable cast unfortunately wasted in a relatively mundane plot.
That doesn't mean that it's not good, except that with quality associated with the Besson / Europa Corp brand name, one automatically demands a lot more, which the film does deliver on the technical aspects, but was let down by a script that didn't do everything much justice. The premise sets up a murder mystery that CIA operative Snow (Guy Pearce) gets framed for, and we see a good part of his interrogation/torture under the hands of the Secret Service, adamant in getting him to spill the beans, which he resist since information is almost always the objective and currency that keeps one alive. This comes with the obligatory escape sequence in a flashback that was more animation than live action, that's loud and defying any laws of physics just to add some thrills and spills, which frankly doesn't excite since everything went by in a blur.
On the other hand, there's the US President's daughter Emile Warnock (Maggie Grace) who's taking a trip up to the latest maximum security prison out in space, to verify that the worst inmates possible, convicted for various forms of violent crime, still get treated humanely and not inexplicably used in their cryogenic stage for time travel experiments by the builders and sponsors of what's essentially a space installation. But with all forms of technology and the introduction of human error no thanks to humans wanting to circumvent controls and take unnecessary risks, Emile's research programme gets interrupted by a prison break out, and soon she becomes hostage with danger threatening to boil over especially when the generic band of villains begin to learn of her true identity.
Plenty of special effects for that outer space setting got used when Snow gets sent to the prison in space on a one objective rescue mission, but he has something up his sleeve to look for someone who could clear his name, having interacted prior to his arrest, and to find out the whereabouts of a briefcase that can be used to prove his innocence. So reluctant hero travels, and we ask whether having a space fortress of sorts out in space to keep all the evil bad folk from Earth out there, out of sight and out of mind, will actually be a good idea, since it gives rise to scenarios like this, like a Con Air, but only in space.
While the villains are the usual bland psychos where most of them, under the effects of a cerebrum treatment, have a go at one another, saving a select, lucky few who aren't affected by the side effects, the heroes here prove to be the ones who carry the film. Guy Pearce plays his heroic Snow like an A one A-hole, complete with wisecracks that work, and many that don't. I could have sworn he was a cyborg for the amount of punishment sustained while nary having his skin broken, and having to survive various unbelievable action sequences that somehow made everything put together seem over the top. Maggie Grace's Emilie doesn't appreciate Snow's antics, so watching them go one up against another, with that inevitable romantic development amongst their characters as a given, gives Lockout a different flair, since their chemistry worked.
Forget about the effects used in the Star War-ish finale with space fighters going all out against a Death Star like installation, or other special effects that look more animated than to augment real life action, or that the fights here happen to be more of the usual way with fisticuffs being used to settle disputes. If you're game for some science fiction action adventure without minding a mediocre plot livened by the chemistry of the leads, and to allow Europa Corp to blood its fledging storytellers, then Lockout would just be right up your alley.