First, guys, go out and see Lockout with Guy Pearce and Maggie Grace. No, seriously, just do it. Put down the mouse and see it. You still want action movies like this produced? See it.
We're not talking Shakespeare, folks. We're talking unapologetic guy-movies. Let the full force of the actiony quip-fest roll over through your being, harking you back to those other guy movies you love...
And when you feel the tinge if recollection, asking yourself if you've seen this story somewhere before... Perhaps from a hero you loved but can only vaguely picture, a hero perhaps with longer hair, maybe an eye patch, bomber jacket and motorcycle boots, the witty snarl...
Crane your ears to the image in your mind's eye, listen... Can you hear the words... "Call me snake."
EXACTLY! It's Escape From New York! Of course! Snake Plissken is sent on a suicide mission into a maximum security prison to save the President when terrorists shoot his plane down. Lockout is about Snow going into a maximum security prison to save the President's DAUGHTER when inmates take over joint.
It's Escape From New York... In space! (queue Hollywood cliché music)
But hey, no one sucker-punches Snake Plissken with a fire extinguisher. He got shot with a crossbow and still took the guy out with a throwing star and dragged the president out of a train car surrounded by crazies. Then he went on to fight a guy with nails sticking out of baseball bats, shot up the city and saved the day.
That guy was a hero!
Lockout's Snow? Yeah, he's alright.
We don't know why Snow's such a jerk (except for that name - oh, schoolyard bullies can be so cruel!) but he's got just enough bad attitude to be sent in. I mean, he didn't "fly the Gulfire into Leningrad" or pull jobs with Harold "Brain" Hillman and Fresno Bob, but he'll do.
So why did the writers try to complicate the story past their ability to unify its elements?
We begin with a traitor selling secrets concept, with Snow as the fall guy seeking the missing evidence. Which Secret Service guy is it? What are the stakes?
Who cares? While Snow's awaiting "status" in the lock up, the President's daughter Emilie enters with her "cruel and unusual" soapbox and the inmates - actually one deranged inmate - manages to free everyone and take over the joint. Do they have some nefarious plan? No, but they'll make one up as they go along.
So the story rolls on with Snow trying to save Emilie WHILE trying to find his friend to tell him about the missing case (even though we ALL know the secrets are in the cigarette lighter) .
Will the Secret Service traitor screw him over en route? No, he's willing to wait. Are the guys who paid for the information in on this prison heist or will they try to screw things up for Snow? Of course not.
So by the time Snow parachutes from space down to the Major Deegan Expressway (ahem, NYC), we don't care about the missing briefcase or traitor. But then like our passive protagonist sequence from Minority Report, the hero is incarcerated while the love interest solves the crime, then let's Snow sting the traitor.
And we end with promises of sex because, um, well, what else would a action hero want?
How about a unified story and respect. In EFNY (I don't think that acronym is deliberate), terrorism and unrest abound, causing terrorists to crash the president's plane in NYC. But World War 3 might break out if Snake can't get the president out to play his tape in 22 hours. So they give our nihilist hero who was screwed over by the system an incentive - exploding capsules in his arteries that will go off in 22 hours if he's not back.
That is what we call a ticking clock.
So Snake does it, prevents the Duke of NY (what wonderful characters!) from riding out with the President's head on the hood of his car, escapes the road mines, goes over the wall with seconds to spare, gets the capsules removed and still manages to screw over everyone for sending him on that suicide mission.
Both movies have memorable lines, both have fun action scenes and escapes, but in case you forgot, only one has a unified story strong enough to stick in our memory.