NB: these are my notes on the film, not a review – so you might not want to read them if you’ve not seen it yet.
So called because it’s LockUp in Outer Space? The script by conjoined directors Mather-St Ledger, from a story by producer Luc Besson, is nearer in its premise to Fortress II: Re-Entry, though it most obviously lifts plot licks from Escape From New York and Con Air while tossing in what-the-hell overarching threads about a mcguffin briefcase stashed in a subway station locker back on Earth and a traitor in the department. In the late 21st Century, when cellphones, subways and hotel rooms look the same but Blade Runneresque flying cop cars blast away in urban areas, the First Daughter, Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace, Besson’s plot token heroine of choice – as in Taken), is doing a humanitarian visit to an orbiting space prison where cons are kept in cryostasis like in Demolition Man partly (in an unexplored subplot) so corporations can test the process before using it in deep space exploration (its status as imprisonment is debatable – don’t you have to be conscious to do the time). Because her bodyguard (Jacky Ido) is a frickin’ idiot, he smuggles a gun into a room with psycho rapist-killer-pickpocket Hydell (Joseph Gilgun, doing Scots), who takes it away and lets out the rest of the cons, who are led by Hydell’s more controlled, even harder brother Alex (Vincent Regan). Who can rescue the President’s girl? Luckily, the forces of law and order – Peter Stormare with a goatee, Lennie James doing Good Cop – have just arrested ex-CIA op Snow (Guy Pearce) on trumped-up charges to do with the traitor/briefcase subplot and he gets offered the damn-the-rest-of-the-hostages mission to redeem himself and get off being sent to the satellite as a prisoner.
For a while, it’s fun seeing near-Earth orbit space action nonsense – if you enjoyed that anti-gravity float over the whirring giant fanblades bit in Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol, here it is again – and Pearce making duff lines sound better as he demonstrates his badassness (like Snake Plissken, he seems to be the last smoker in the world) and gets in a ton of fights. But the film suffers from odd lacks: we are told that the prison holds 500 of the worst baddies in the world, but virtually the only speaking parts go to two squabbling Scots crooks who barely rate on the mastercrook scale (contrast with the array of varied convict menaces in Con Air?) and in the end they’re more of a threat to each other than the hero. The action beats, including the crucial climactic explosion of the whole station, keep getting muffed as the film tries to work up some interest in that bloody briefcase and whatever’s in it. And the back-and-forth between Pearce and Grace is fairly feeble – they are supposed to strike sexual sparks between thumping each other and significant chat about making tough decisions (which mostly turns out to be an excuse for really stupid behaviour). But they come across as more like a squabbling father-and-daughter act than a potential item, which makes the cutesy last scene excruciating (imagine if Escape From New York ended with Kurt Russell flirting with Donald Pleasence, though that might at least have been really radical). And would it have killed Besson to spring for a name character actor to play the President? Peter Hudson is just a nobody, without it even being a plot point.