1981’s Escape from New York is a sci-fi thriller starring Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, a criminal about to be incarcerated in the worst prison on Earth: New York City. He is offered a deal - save the President of the United States, who's being held hostage in the middle of NYC after his helicopter has crashed. Snake has to maneuver his way through the prison to find the President and escape with him alive. If he doesn’t, he … ummm …… wait a second. That’s not the movie I’m reviewing. Here, let me start over again…
2012’s Lockout is a sci-fi thriller starring Guy Pierce as Snow, a criminal about to be incarcerated in the worst prison off Earth: Maximum Security One (MS1). He is offered a deal - save the daughter of the President of the United States, who's being held hostage by prisoners who have taken over MS1. Snow has to maneuver his way through the prison to find the President’s daughter and escape with her alive.
There, that’s better.
Do you think that by changing a couple of key words in that last paragraph, no one could tell that Escape from New York and Lockout were basically the same movie? Heck, if they could have given Guy Pierce an eye patch, they probably would have. Both films even have characters named Duke. I have no problems with reboots, sometimes it takes a new perspective to improve on something. Case in point - Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. But when filmmaker Luc Besson calls Lockout an ‘original idea’, I have to call Bullshit!
Lockout does start out with a great opening sequence. Snow is being interrogated for the murder of a government official who supposedly is stealing secrets. The police enter the building, but Snow escapes. This leads to an exhilarating motorcycle/aircraft chase scene through the city, finishing off with a foot race through the subway. That opening sequence is the most exciting part of this film. If you want, you can stop watching the movie and feel satisfied. If you continue, be warned - it goes downhill from here.
Back on Earth, Good cop Shaw and bad cop Langral force Snow into a deal to go up to MS1 to rescue the president’s daughter. But his ulterior motive is to contact his partner Mace, who is a prisoner in the space jail, who knows the whereabouts of a briefcase that carries vital information. Snow is able to sneak aboard MS1, and fairly quickly locates the president’s daughter. The two bicker like a husband and wife, which guarantees that at some point they will end up in bed, if they survive. The rest of the film deals with their numerous attempts to escape from the prison, to save the other hostages, and to find that darn brief case.
As I said, Lockout is a complete rip-off of Escape from New York. In fact, Snow’s character is identical to Bruce Willis’s John McClain character in the Die Hard films. Isn’t there anything original in this movie? Guy Pierce is a good actor. He appeared in one of my favorite films, Memento. He usually appears in smaller, independent films. What he’s doing here, I’ll never know. He is terribly miscast for the part. I really don’t care if he gets of the prison ship. The same goes for Maggie Grace as the president’s daughter. I find her irritating in most of the work she’s in, starting with her part on TV’s Lost. Oh, I was so happy when she was shot dead by Ana Lucia.
If you don’t take my advice and continue watching after the motorcycle chase, you will see one of the most unsatisfying endings to a movie in a long time. You get two villains in this film, one who's pretty psychotic. <<Spoiler Alerts Ahead>> Usually you would get an iconic death for the biggest villain, such as Alan Rickman falling off the Nakatomi Tower in Die Hard, or Gary Oldman getting throw off the plane in Air Force One. In Lockout? Nothing. Nada, Zilch. You don’t even see him die. You invested an hour thirty minutes in seeing this creep kill everyone, but you don’t get to see him die! The whole ending is rushed and tacked on.
Directed and written by James Lather and Stephen St. Leger (and don’t forget the ‘original idea’ by Luc Besson), Lockout is just one of those films that should have gone directly to the SyFy channel. Unoriginal script, terrible dialogue, plot holes you could park a space cruiser in. Add to that, actors portraying characters you really don’t give a crap about. One area that is a positive is the special effects. On a shoestring budget, I felt that they did a good job. But sadly, that’s the only thing I liked. I really hope John Carpenter sees this film and wonders why he didn’t get his name in the credits. Actually, it might be good that his name isn’t in the credits. I wouldn’t want my name to be associated with this fiasco.
It blows my mind that that Sony can make the biggest turd look like a diamond. The 1080p, MPEG-4 video transfer of Lockout looks terrific. With an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, the picture is crystal clear with absolutely no grain to be seen. The black levels in the film are excellent, with no decrease in shadow delineation. The details in the film are terrific. The best example is the motorcycle chase scene in the beginning of the film. It’s an extremely fast-paced sequence, but it is amazingly sharp. The color palate is bleak and industrial, with occasional flashes of blood red. At the end of the film, there's a great shot of a futuristic New York City with the sun breaking through the buildings. It’s a terrific image. Skin tones are very good, as well as surface and facial textures.
The DTS-HD 5.1 audio transfer is equal to the impressiveness of the video. The highlight is definitely the great directional effects elicited from every channel. Sound cues-bullets, ships, creaking of the ship-if it makes a sound, it is going to be heard somewhere in your room, and with excellent clarity. The front channels are extremely active. Dialogue is very clear amongst all the chaos. LFE channels get a heck of a workout, with explosions almost constant. The depth of this audio presentation is phenomenal. It is definitely a room-rumbler.
As much as I hate to say it, this is a definite reference title.
The extras on Lockout are pretty bare. You have the required ‘Making of’ with interviews of the cast and filmmakers. It doesn’t offer anything to the viewing of the film. The other feature discusses the production itself. Again, nothing that you haven’t seen before. The film does claim to be the unrated, but there is nothing there that wouldn’t deserve an R rating.
I really liked this movie—when it was called Escape from New York. Lockout lacks everything that made that other film any good. It sells itself as an ‘original idea’ by Luc Besson, when it’s an obvious rip-off of John Carpenter’s classic. In the hands of 2 first-time directors, the film fails on all accounts. It has a terrible script, bad performances across the board and absolutely no originality. It does have a great opening sequence and good special effects, but fails miserably at offering a decent conclusion. The films transfer to Blu-ray is out of this world. The excellent picture quality and immersive audio presentation make this title one to show off your system. But excellent audio/video transfers do not make a movie good. Go out and get Escape from New York instead of watching this. Definitely a much better film.