Every once in a while, a movie comes along which repeatedly surprises you with how bad it is. It’s not uncommon to encounter a movie with bad writing or a stupid premise, but they usually stay at about the same level of bad over the course of the whole film. It’s much rarer to see a movie that starts bad, but then continues to find new ways to get worse. Lockout starts out awful, and yet somehow it manages to take several big steps down in quality as it progresses.
It starts at some unspecified time in the future (although since we know that President Warnock is the 56th President, we can assume it’s probably no more than 100 years from now). We see motorcycles and helicopters that look a little different than they do now, but people aren’t driving flying cars or wearing jetpacks or using the metric system. People are still using guns to fight, and if they have important papers to carry around then they use the kinds of briefcases with combination locks. But there have apparently been advances in both space travel and prison design, because the height of supermax prisons is M. S. One, where society’s worst criminals do their time frozen in cryogenic chambers in a big jail in orbit around the Earth. Since they spend all their time as human ice cubes, there’s no chance for them to escape, but even if they did they’d be trapped in space.
But there are reports of the freezing process causing a kind of space dementia, so the President sends his daughter Emilie (Maggie Grace) to investigate. It is of course completely safe from her, since she’ll never even be in the same room as the inmates, nor will the criminals be in contact with anyone carrying weapons. Except of course for the secret service agent who for some reason deems it necessary to leave the First Daughter to be in the room with the hardened criminal, and to ignore the order to give up all his weapons. And in a completely unforeseeable turn of events, the criminal gets the secret service agent’s gun, kills him, un-freezes all of the other bad guys, and the inmates take Emilie and all the other guards and staff as hostages. The only one who can possibly save the day is Snow (played by Guy Pearce), who used to be a CIA agent before he was framed for murder and espionage.
The film starts with a ridiculous action sequence with some of the worst CGI I’ve ever witnessed. There were parts of a high-speed motorcycle chase that ended up looking much more like a hand-drawn cartoon than live action. But soon the horrible dialogue and inane plot caught up (or down) with the with the quality of the effects, and we end up with a terribly convoluted story that only gets worse as the film progresses. It’s like they had some not-so-clever action sequences they wanted to use in the movie and tried to piece together a story around them, and they ended up with a whole other plot line about trying to find the location of a hidden briefcase that is supposed to have the information needed to exonerate Snow. But these two plots aren’t well intertwined, so it’s like they stop caring about one whenever they’re in pursuit of the other.
Lockout is easily among the worst films I’ve seen this year, on par with Project X and Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie. The only thing Lockout has going for it is that it’s one that could be fun to watch with other people who get some sick pleasure from bad movies (and I’ll throw myself in that category much of the time), whereas the other two are simply bad all the way around. But I’m certainly not in the mood to test that theory by watching it again.