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Entries in lockout (2)

Friday
Apr272012

Safe

To once again quote the late film critic Pauline Kael, “Movies are so rarely great art that if we cannot appreciate great trash, we have very little reason to be interested in them.” That, in a nutshell, is the approach one should take when viewing the new Jason Statham action movie, Safe. It’s so bad on so many levels that one can’t help but appreciate it. It features a hackneyed script, downright terrible acting and so many laughable lines of dialogue, it manages to reach the “so bad, it’s good” level. Great art it isn’t, but Safe is one of the most entertaining pieces of trash I’ve seen in a long time.

Luke Wright (Statham) is down on his luck. He’s an ex New York cop who is hated by the current police force for snitching on them back in the day and he is now relegated to cage fighting to get by. He has just won a match after one punch, but there’s a problem: he was supposed to take a dive. He didn’t think one punch would knock his opponent out. Now he has the Russian mob on him and they’re angry about the money they lost. They strip him of everything and explain that if he gets close to anybody, they’ll kill them. He’ll never be happy, so he decides to end it all. While standing on the edge of a subway platform, however, he spots a young girl named Mei (Catherine Chan) hiding from some pursuing Russians. It turns out she’s actually a genius, able to memorize anything by looking at it for a few seconds, and she has a string of numbers in her head that, when deciphered, give the combination to a safe with lots of money in it. Deciding he’d rather fight than give up, Luke rescues Mei and decides to take them on, along with the Triads and a corrupt police force that are also looking for the girl.

Good bad movies are no phenomenon. We had one only two weeks ago with the absurd Luc Besson produced Lockout, but the difference between the two is that Lockout had some amount of polish to it. It sported some moderately clever writing, decent performances, snappy dialogue and some witty one-liners. Its laughs were intentional and its thrills calculably ridiculous. It knew it was stupid. Aside from the self parodying ending, Safe doesn’t. It thinks it’s cool. It thinks it’s smart. It thinks it’s clever. It thinks its story is full of interesting twists and turns when, in the back of the viewer’s mind, it’s hard to understand why the Triads would go to so much trouble of having Mei memorize that number when they could just write it down and perform the task of grabbing the money themselves.

Although the action is solid and likely to put a smile on the average adrenaline junkie’s face, the bulk of the film’s entertainment is unintentional. The humor comes from scenes with a serious intent that simply fail and the juxtaposition of a supporting cast who overact every scene they’re in working opposite Statham’s understated “hardly trying” approach. These moments lead to some hilarious dialogue exchanges and macho posturing that tries to be cool, but is really just silly.

Safe is one of those movies that’s better seen than described, because it’s hard to describe a movie that fails in nearly every regard, yet is still fun to watch. The cinematography is ugly, complete with poor framing and shaky camerawork, the acting is weak and the story is inconsequential drivel, but it’s enjoyable drivel. Safe feels like a B-movie, one that probably should have gone straight to DVD, but wound up in the theater due to the lead star, so one should accept it as such. There’s no need to overanalyze what you’re seeing; just go with it. You might not respect yourself when it’s over, but you’ll admit you had a good time.

Safe receives 3.5/5

Friday
Apr132012

Lockout

Movies that aim low are hard to review. Critics criticize films that are loud, overblown and silly, but if that’s its intention, does it become something we should praise? It’s all about perspective when it comes to movies like this week’s Lockout. Some will destroy it for its clichés and unoriginality while others will check their brains at the door and just have fun with it. Although I certainly recognize its problems and all around derivativeness, I’m in the latter group of critics. Lockout is good dumb fun, plain and simple.

The movie is set in 2079 and stars Guy Pearce as Snow, an ex-CIA operative who is finding himself in trouble with the law, accused of conspiracy to commit espionage against the United States. He knows such is not the case, but all evidence points to the contrary. The only thing that can save him is a briefcase that was left with his partner, Mace, played by Tim Plester. Unfortunately, Mace is now locked up in a new maximum security prison floating in space called M.S. One where he is kept in a state of stasis, just like all prisoners imprisoned there. However, all hell is about to break loose. It turns out that the President’s daughter, Emilie Warnock, played by Maggie Grace, is onboard to ensure that no corruption is taking place. When she pulls a prisoner out of stasis to interview him, he grabs a guard’s gun and escapes, freeing all of the other prisoners in the process, including his brother and ringleader, Alex, played by Vincent Regan. Due to the situation, the government makes Snow an offer. Get in there and rescue Emilie and he can go free. Seeing it also as an opportunity to find Mace, locate the briefcase and prove his innocence, he accepts.

The film, as so many have described it, is basically Escape from New York in space. In that movie, the main character was tasked with finding the President in a futuristic prison setting. Here it’s the President’s daughter. The protagonists in both films are strong, skilled in combat and have smart mouths. They’re more interested in cracking quips than cracking skulls. Fans who rejoiced over the stalled plans to remake Escape from New York may let out an exhaustive grown over Lockout because the two are so similar, it may as well come out from behind is poorly veiled “original concept” cover and own up to ripping off that beloved cult classic.

But those semantics should be left to the studios to fight out. For moviegoers, all that matters is if it’s any good or not. Luckily, it is. This is exactly what one should expect from a movie at this time of year, about a month before the summer movie season kicks off with The Avengers. It doesn’t do anything to blow you away, but it works as a serviceable time killer until the heavy hitters arrive. It’s a ridiculous movie to be sure—I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure it broke about a dozen unbreakable laws of science—but that’s part of its charm. It never takes itself too seriously and embraces its silliness.

This leads to some welcome comedy in a film that could have otherwise been a grim, violent tale. Guy Pearce, one of our most underappreciated and talented actors, is wonderful here, striking the perfect balance between machismo and playful shenanigans. He takes a role that could have been capably filled by any moderately talented actor and makes it his own, obviously having fun playing a man who knows he’s unstoppable. His evil counterparts are just as fantastic as they spout off intimidating, yet humorous one-liners while they terrorize the workers on the floating spacecraft. As one might expect, a romance between Snow and Emilie is tacked onto the film, but it’s so lazily thrown in there that it barely exists at all and does little to detract from the fun of what you’re watching.

It’s easy to criticize a movie for being dumb, but it’s far more fulfilling to embrace its absurdity and go with it, especially if the film itself is aware of what it’s doing. I was able to do that with Lockout. Sure, its stupidity sometimes borders on condescending, like through its onscreen textual introductions of every character and location (including some that are introduced multiple times, just in case someone forgot that the giant floating complex in space was the prison), but it would be hypocritical of me to praise the film for its unabashed idiocy while simultaneously criticizing it for the very same thing. Lockout is pure escapist entertainment and there’s nothing wrong with that. Most who watch about it will probably forget about it in another month or so, but in the moment, it’s a fun ride.

Lockout receives 3.5/5