Dir: James Mather and Stephen St. Leger
Star: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Vincent Regan, Joseph Gilgun
Co-written and produced by Luc Besson, this feels like one of those ideas he scribbled down in a notebook as a teenager, after a double-bill of Escape from New York and Demolition Man – except, Besson was in his mid-30s when the latter came out. Still, there are large chunks of both present. In the future, the worst criminals are sent into “stasis” and held on a space-station orbiting Earth. When the President’s daughter (Grace) visits on a fact-finding visit to interrogate re-activated prisoner Hydell (Gilgun), he escapes and release all 500 prisoners, including his brother Alex (Regan), who takes over, realizing that the hostage situation could be their way out.
Short on time and options, the authorities send in Snow (Pearce), an ex-CIA agent recently convicted of espionage, with nothing to lose, who knows that the only person capable of proving his innocence is one of the incarcerated prisoners. Not the first time Besson has mined this particular seam – it could also be described as “District B-13 in space”. Yet, despite its shamelessly derivative nature, this is slick and entertaining nonsense out of the gates, with Pearce rolling out the wisecracks, even as he is being beaten to a pulp by his interrogators. That’s what passes as characterization here: broad strokes.
The same goes for Alex and Hydell, who represent the two archetypes, popular in the action genre, of “smart psychopath” and “totally loony psychopath” respectively, and the First Daughter is there, it seems purely for the specific purpose of exchange unresolved sexual tension banter with the hero. That said, this remains consistently entertaining, and solidly constructed: I was surprised to hear the budget was only $20 million, because it looks a lot higher than that. If not as good as the films it steals from, at least Besson is lifting from the best, though not sure exactly how much credit he should be given for that…