Much has been written about the genre de-construction of Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods, and lately it seems that the surefire way to be called original or groundbreaking is to approach genre from a vantage of total self-awareness and meta irony. I enjoy this kind of film as much as the next film snob, but I do sometimes tire of this age of irony. On the flip side there are films like The Raid, which receive praise partly for sheer technical craftsmanship, but also for taking genre and bringing it down to basics. Making an action movie? Sure, let’s pay lip-service to character and plot, but then get to the action quickly and keep that action going uninterrupted for as long as possible. Sometimes this approach can be fun, as in the Crank series, but there’s a natural limit to going for nothing but action, and The Raid breaches it. Films like The Raid essentially misunderstand the reasons we watch action films in the first place. Action sequences are great, but they are not an end to themselves, they form the punctuation for story and character. This is something that the Luc Besson-produced Guy Pearce vehicle, Lockout, understands perfectly.
Lockout is not ironic, though its main character certainly approaches situations with casual irony and intense sarcasm. Lockout also contains fairly non-stop action without forsaking narrative or character. But what makes Lockout stand out above and apart from other action films of its ilk is the clear self-awareness, not of the film, but of the filmmakers. Lockout is a wildly derivative work. The plot is basically Escape from New York IN SPACE! The main character, Snow, is basically John McClane boiled down to only his most sarcastic quips. The narrative turns of the film are often ridiculously contrived, and I can’t help but feel key scenes were cut out causing character motivations to lack sense in numerous instances. Some of the action is also really badly done with terrible CGI effects. Yet, through all of these clearly problematic elements, Lockout succeeds at being a solid action film by sticking to what actually makes the action genre work. Click to read more.