Someone wasn’t thinking when they designed an international space prison for the world’s most ruthless convicts. The facility is self-contained, which seems like mistake one. Although prisoners are kept in a constant state of stasis (you then wonder why they need so many guards), there are no back-up controls. Once the hull of the facility is breached, it’s over. Inmates run amok.
Wouldn’t it make sense to have some form of self-destruct sequence installed, or an override on the surface just in case a single inmate is able to break free and let all of the inmates out? You know, precautions and all that? It would have saved Snow (Guy Pearce, no relation to the indecipherable ’90s rapper) a lot of trouble, now working off a potential 30-year sentence for treason by going up to rescue the kidnapped president’s daughter.
Emilie (Maggie Grace) is on board for a humanitarian mission (and necessary exposition dropping), ensuring prisoners are being treated well and the stasis isn’t having any adverse effects. Logic would think that theory would have been tested prior to spending billions on a prison designed around the very concept, but whatever.
Snow has to deal with all sorts of lowlifes who crawl around the corridors, somehow separated from their herd, becoming more like creatures in an Alien sequel… one of the bad ones. The body count rises as the rescue mission goes south and the ground team can’t make up their minds on how to handle any the stress.
Phoned in tension puts lives at risk that are certainly not penned for death, and key villains get their comeuppance in marginalized ways compared to the cronies. The best death here revolves around a new type of explosive that takes longer to explain than use, but the end result is blood splattering fun.
Lockout is all over the place, a film that involves political tension, outer space battles without any connected human element, and a sarcastic lead man who has no likeable traits. It’s easy to envision someone like Paul Veerhoven tackling the concept, turning it into a ripping on the modern prison and political systems, but Lockout isn’t that daring. A blending of the comedic, horror, and dramatic elements are jumbled in a quest for explosions, so stupid you need to shut down your entire body before your brain in an attempt to avoid permanent damage.
Lockout is also fitted with the single worst effects sequence of the modern CG era, a flabbergasting road chase with some kinetic camera work, destroyed by an utter ignorance with regards to texturing or physics. Baffling as it is, the rest – including the flashy outer space shoot-outs – are well put together for a low budget actioner. Go figure.
There are pieces of Lockout that come together, a line here or a line there that elicits a snicker and an action sequence or two with some genuine energy outside of the shaky camera work. There’s forced into a messy framework of great ideas on paper that don’t translate onto the screen and monumentally stupid concepts that shouldn’t have passed the first draft.
Lockout has problems, and no, not the narrative type. Digitally captured with a great eye for close-up detail, the piece collapses under the slightest scrutiny. Flagrant edge enhancement is visible almost immediately, producing unmistakable halos and an edgy appearance. Elements of the sets or background décor are muddy, lacking the precision they need, doubly so for a new release.
Fine lines shimmer and break-up, some (admittedly small) text on a computer screen is rendered unintelligible by the problem. A shot of some lockers early on is broken into shattered lines, the aliasing preventing something that simple from coming together.
There’s no doubt Lockout went through a heavy period of post production. The problems could have been inserted then or during the Blu-ray transfer. Color grading is ugly, dirty, and gaudy. Earth-based rooms are shifted into a dense blue, while the space station is given a puke green, teal, and orange palette. It’s one thing to make it unappealing, another to make it appalling to basic visual sensibilities.
Minor noise is readily spotted against much of the effects work, and can be given a pass. The AVC encode is more than ready to handle the influx of digital errors. It even keeps the wandering black levels in check, which because of the color grading, can move to an entirely blue scheme. The depth is completely ignored, becoming about as jumpy as the film itself.
It’s hard to completely discredit this movie’s visual appeal. The opening shot of Guy Pearce is tremendously delineated, and that level of intense definition in close-ups is one of the only consistent elements. Fidelity is monumental for these shots, making that sharpening decision a double disappointment. Imagine what it could have been without the manipulation.
For a blast-em-up, Lockout has all of the elements it needs to be a memorable success. Some opening blows to Guy Pearce’s face (which reveal the opening few credits in an amusing way) are heavy on the bass, easily a trait this disc can live up to. For as awful as the effects are, the freeway chase is an audio highlight, guns blazing, bullets impacting, and bass rollicking.
Despite being in space, the lack of air doesn’t cause any loss of audio. Ships attacking the facility exterior are met with turret fire that bellows from the LFE and trounces the puny ships into sound traveling pieces. A final explosion (revealing what would be a spoiler) sucks the air from the room and lets out a genuine jolt that is worth reliving.
All of that is great, but so is the sense of place. Empty hallways lead to bulky echoes, whether that’s the PA system or gunfire. There’s always another layer to listen for as the mayhem ensues. There’s a lot of attention paid to the location and plenty of reasons for this DTS-HD mix to drum up the intensity.
Breaking the Lockout is the first in a slim, dual set of features, this one a basic making-of with cast interviews. A Vision of the Future is far more involved, detailing what was physical and what was CG, including where these physical parts came from on a small budget. Sony adds a few trailers and calls it a day after that.