In the later part of the 21st-century the worst criminals the planet has to offer are kept safely away from public in stasis aboard an orbiting prison known as MS: One. Although it is never explained in the film, it does not take a rocket scientist to guess that “MS” stands for Maximum Security and much like the rest of the movie “Lockout”, this is a film that does not aspire to be more than the sum of its heavily borrowed parts.

The film stars Guy Pearce as Snow, a special agent who has been wrongly accused in the killing of a high-ranking operative. Railroaded through the system, Snow is looking at a lengthy sentence.

At the same time, the presidents daughter Emily (Maggie Grace), has visited MS: One on a goodwill tour. One of her special causes is to confirm the truth that long-term stasis has damaging psychological and neurological effects for the prisoners. Since the prison is funded by a deep space research development she definitely sees conflict of interest in how prisoners are being treated.

Things take a turn for the worse when a violent prisoner goes off during his interview and proceeds to release pent-up inmate population and take the crew hostage. The prisoners run amok and for the time being are unaware that they had president’s daughter in their midst. Snow was given an ultimatum that the successful retrieval of the first daughter will help him avoid becoming a future resident of the orbiting prison.

Despite his misgivings, Snow accepts the assignment as he learns that one of his friends is incarcerated on board. This friend holds valuable information that can exonerates Snow from his charges. Once on board the station, Snow must battle mobs of psychopaths as he attempts to locate and rescue Emily.

While one would think this premise would hold plenty of excitement, thrills, and suspense, the film is essentially undone by its inability to sustain any real momentum for any developed and real tension.

While the prisoners do a great job of appearing menacing, torturing and killing the hostages, we really never learn of their true objective. At no time do they really make any serious demands for freedom, material goods, and so on which basically leaves them vulnerable to an all-out attack from the amassing forces around the prison.

One would think they would’ve asked for something as simple as pardons but they seem more interested in glaring threats to the president and the authorities via videoconference, not truly grasping the magnitude of their situation.

Pearce does a good job as the gruff Snow but sadly the script gives him very little to do other than smug one-liners and occasionally shoot the bad guys. Smith does show some spark and personality in her performance but she is given little to do aside from playing the damsel in distress although she doesn infuse the role with some strength and humor.

What really surprised me about the movie was even though it borrowed very heavily from Fortress 1 & 2 as well as an escape from New York, and have surprisingly little new to offer. It was clear that the intention was to create a diehard style film in space but unfortunately it fell relatively flat.

This was a huge surprise to me as one would think that Luc Besson and many of the creative talents that made “Taken” such a thrilling smash would have been able to come up with a better action film.

This is not to say that “Lockout” is a bad film more than it is a disappointment considering the premise, cast, and the potential that it had going for it.

I can certainly overlook plot holes, thinly crafted stock characters, and run-of-the-mill action sequences in my action films as long as they can get me some solid entertainment.

Sadly this is not the case and it plays out more like a direct to DVD release that’s certainly would be extremely welcome us and Netflix are red box rental but for my taste thanks to the lo-res and dated special effects did not warrant a major theatrical release.

2.5 stars out of 5