Amusing space junk
April 19, 2012
This mindless, entertaining actioner borrows the premise of “Escape From New York,” including that film’s heart-stopping action and its hero’s sarcastic style that establishes Guy Pearce as wisecracking action icon. It’s the feature debut of writer/co-directors Stephen Saint Leger and James Mather, who deliver a “Die Harder in Space,” based on a concept by Luc Besson.
The year is 2079. Mankind’s progress is reflected neither by fashion, nor lifestyle, but can be witnessed in a motorized, speeding unicycle and in the birth pains of an earth-orbiting super max prison, known as MS-1. The latter is a global effort to incarcerate murderers and rapists in escape-proof conditions. The prison’s planned 500,000 inmates are well-represented by the facility’s first 500 badasses, sentenced to serve their time in a chemically induced sleep known as stasis.
Since the drugs have caused dementia and psychosis, do-gooder first daughter, Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace), arrives to take a closer look. In short order, a prison loon (Joseph Gilgun) awakened for her interview, turns the tables on his captors, kidnapping Emilie and releasing all 500 inmates.
Back on Earth, U.S. Federal Agent Snow (Guy Pearce) is wrongly convicted of murdering his superior, and convicted, along with his partner Mace (Tim Plester), of stealing state secrets. His sentence, 30 years in stasis aboard MS-1, will be commuted provided he rescues the president’s daughter. Snow agrees to these terms because his friend Mace is already incarcerated there, and knows the location of a metal case containing information Snow hopes will clear his name.
Once onboard MS-1, Snow relies on electronic blueprints to guide him through air ducts, gravity generators, and other hidden portals, convenient for moving about the ship. However, the prisoners are not without resources, especially a smart alpha inmate (Vincent Regan) with a talent for reining in homicidal maniacs.
The huge ship presents many opportunities for imaginative life-and-death games of hide-and-seek. Explosions, gunfire and chases are credibly accomplished via a mix of stunts and CGI, and are well-paced to insure viewers remain engaged. Due largely to Pearce’s magnetism and fine work by Joseph Gilgun and Vincent Regan playing the villains, we’re willing to overlook the implausibility of such a premise. However, Snow’s potential redemption and romance with Emilie are hackneyed plot elements, disappointingly handled. “Lockout” would fare better if the directors had locked down those concepts and thrown away the key.