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'Lockout' gives viewers a thrilling escape from space prison

Open Road Films

Maggie Grace, Tim Plester, and Guy Pearce work on escaping an orbiting space prison in "Lockout."

REVIEW: "Lockout" is a horrible name for Guy Pearce's new movie. A better name might have been "MS One: Maximum Security," which is the name of the orbiting space prison where most of the action takes place. A better name still might have been "Escape From Space Prison" because it's impossible not to think of Kurt Russell's "Escape From New York" and "Escape From L.A." as the plot unfolds.

Pearce is no Snake Plissken, but he gives his hero role a valiant go, and the dialogue is witty enough and the action fast enough that some pretty egregious plot holes are easy to overlook.

Pearce plays Snow, a former CIA agent who's been convicted of a murder he didn't commit. When the president's daughter (Maggie Grace) goes on the universe's dumbest humanitarian mission to MS One, of course the prison is quickly overrun by crazy, once-frozen inmates, and she's taken hostage. Snow to the rescue!

So many questions. Who thought it was a good idea for the president's beautiful blonde daughter to visit a prison for inmates so purely evil, they had to be taken off the planet? (And why did she wear a sleeveless top to do so?) Who then thought it was a good idea to defrost the most psycho, clueless, babbling inmate imaginable for her to interview? Since she conducted her interview from behind glass, why did her bodyguard have to be in the other room WITH the inmate? Why are the frozen inmates kept in such a way that they defrost instantly once their cells are opened, with no cuffs or chains holding them in? Why are said cells as easy to pop open as Tupperware containers?

The answer to all of those questions: It's in the script because otherwise the plot would not unfold as desired, and Snow would not be called upon to save the day.

But you don't mind overlooking the nonsense because "Lockout" is an engaging, PG-13 action flick. A buffed-up Pearce plays a convincing hero, sort of a blend of Mel Gibson in "Lethal Weapon" and Bruce Willis in "Die Hard," with just a dash of Han Solo, the wisecracking loner who acts like he doesn't want the hot chick.

There's a random B-plot about a briefcase Snow is looking for and the friend who hid it, but that's just a distraction from the prison escape.

French director Luc Besson along with directors Stephen St. Leger and James Mather wrote the script, and they were smart enough to liberally sprinkle it with a nice seasoning of humor. Pearce gets most of it, but even the straight-laced bureaucrats have some funny lines.

"Lockout" won't be remembered as long as the classic action films it draws upon, but for a night's entertainment, you could do much, much worse.

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