When The Fifth Element Meets Taken: We Pick the Lock on Lockout
By David Infante
Outer space. Kidnapped children. Badass leading men. Boasting plenty of experience with all of the above is Luc Besson, who brought us galactic camp classic The Fifth Element and 2008’s take-no-Albanian-prisoners thriller Taken. The legendary multi-hyphenate is combining the two with Lockout, piercing theater atmospheres today.
Lockout features 21st-century CGI and Memento’s unforgettable forgetter, Guy Pearce, who plays Snow, an ex-government convict enlisted by the President for his particular set of skills to save POTUS’ daughter from certain death. She’s a hostage aboard the Maximum Security One prison space station. You read that correctly: prison space station.
Episode 1 of THE DIVISION, “Taken”
Whether in deep space or planted firmly on the ground, powerful men with nothing to lose will use any means necessary to safeguard their family from danger. Such is the scenario facing Nick Trever (Andrew Bowen) in KoldCast TV’s The Division. Nick is a security professional ensnared in a massive government conspiracy. A clandestine organization kidnaps Trever’s son to leverage his proximity to a prominent senator. After losing his wife to an apparent overdose just weeks earlier, Trever must break all the rules to save the only remaining member of his family. As he unravels the plot, it becomes clear that the treachery runs deeper than he could have ever imagined.
How far would you go if your child’s life were at stake? Like Trever when his son gets snatched, President Warnock is faced with a tough choice after his daughter Emilie’s goodwill mission to the “impenetrable” MS:1 prison station goes awry. The first daughter is played by all-grown-up girl next door Maggie Grace, who you’ll remember as the teenage beauty that caught the sheik’s eye in Taken.
During her visit, Emilie’s security guard gets into a scuffle with the inmate she’s speaking to. In the ensuing melee, the guard pulls his gun, which, if he had seen either Con Air or US Marshals, he would have realized would go off, depressurizing the station or something. Indeed, the inconceivable happens, setting off a chain of events that turns the formerly secure stronghold into Arkham Asylum. Though they’re still hurtling through space, the inmates now have the upper hand.
With his daughter trapped aboard, the President does the unthinkable: he calls in Snow, a crack agent with a reputation as a loose cannon, falsely convicted of treason. This is the type of guy who spends his time fleeing the law on super-fast future motorcycles and sassing interrogators with witty quips about making sweet love to their wives.
It’s up to Snow to bring the damsel in deep space distress back home safely. Promised a pardon in return for his services, he’s promptly strapped into a shuttle and launched into orbit, where he seems almost impossibly comfortable doing choreographed swan dives in zero gravity. Despite the seeming difficulty of a single man – who’s not an astronaut and is afraid of heights – infiltrating a prison that’s rocketing around the Earth at 7.5 km/s, he manages to get aboard, where he makes short work finding Warnock and resuscitating her by injecting a “neurotransmitter stimulator” needle into her brain through her right eyeball. They show this, and it’s disgusting and cool and weird all at the same time.
Speaking of cool and weird, there’s the prison station itself, which looks like it was built by a Decepticon after a marathon run of Death Race and its slightly more ambitious prequel Death Race 2, featuring Ving Rhames. Questions abound regarding this exemplary incarcerator, most of which remain delightfully unanswered.
For one thing, one has to wonder about the economics of keeping the world’s deadliest criminals locked in cryogenically sealed chambers of a celestial Sing Sing. Who’s paying for this? With all the technology they’ve developed in this future dystopian society, you’re telling me that the best solution for holding prisoners is to sequester them in space? There’s got to be a better and cheaper location for them. Like, say, Wyoming. Or underground. Or underground in Wyoming.
For another, why is the station mounted with destroyer-style cannons? There can’t be that many jailbreak attempts. It’s not as though The Sundance Kid can just wheel a mule team up to the bars and pull the entire jailhouse wall down to spring Butch. It’s in space. There’s no gravity. That’s the best defense mechanism a prison could possibly have, because no matter how savvy future criminals are, there’s no way they’re building spaceships on the fly. Of course, when the phasers fall into inmates’ hands, they turn out to fire not lasers, nor whatever space-age ammo beam you might expect, but bullets. In space.
The inmates take over the station and do what any group of loosely organized, deadly criminals are prone to do in the absence of authority: riot. While the entropic carnage unfolds throughout most of the ship, their self-appointed leader (a dead ringer for Gerard Butler by the name of Vincent Regan) eventually realizes that Warnock is the President’s daughter, and alerts the inmates that keeping her alive and captive is their best opportunity to avoid deep space disintegration.
As the only woman aboard, you’d think she’d be pretty easy to discover, but with a borrowed orange jumpsuit – yes, prisoners apparently still wear orange jumpsuits in 2079 – and a baseball cap pulled down low over her eyes, it takes them a while to suss her out. When they finally make her, the chase is on, and head butt by gut-punch, Snow proves he’s got the mettle to fend off a descending horde of freakishly tatted and totally strung-out savages, at least for a little while.
There’s also the pressing issue that MS:1 is falling from orbit and will make contact with Earth by the end of the film, which I really can’t even begin to address here because I don’t know nearly enough about the laws of physics, a fear that the creators of this film were clearly not subject to. Still, despite its logical fallacies, Lockout manages to deliver the goods because at its core is a story we all love: a hardened, flawed man doing whatever it takes to save an innocent life and clear his name.
Click to play Episode 2 of THE DIVISION, “GENESIS”
David Infante is the Merchandising Editor at Thrillist. He’s a lover of reality TV, Rangers hockey, and Elmore Leonard stories. A graduate of UVA, his affinity for cheap beer is matched only by his staggering collection of button downs.