'Lockout' Has Been Officially Ruled a Ripoff of 'Escape from New York'

'Lockout' Has Been Officially Ruled a Ripoff of 'Escape from New York'

Oct 15, 2015

When the Luc Besson-produced sci-fi action movie Lockout arrived three years ago, many found it to be a harmless guilty pleasure. We fondly renamed it "Space Prison" and ignored its similarities to the 1981 John Carpenter cult classic Escape from New York as we do with any Hollywood product that simply seems derivative of other Hollywood product. 

Well, Carpenter didn't see the movie as a harmless pleasure of any kind. In fact, he sued the makers of Lockout for plagiarism. And he won. A French court has sided with the American filmmaker over Besson, his co-writers Stephen St. Leger and James Mather and his production company, EuropaCorp.

Here is the part of the ruling confirming the plagiarism, via The Playlist:

both presented an athletic, rebellious and cynical hero sentenced to a period of isolated incarceration —despite his heroic past— who is given the offer of setting out to free the President of the United States or his daughter held hostage in exchange for his freedom; he manages, undetected, to get inside the place where the hostage is being held after a flight in a glider/space shuttle, and finds there a former associate who dies; he pulls off the mission in extremis, and at the end of the film keeps the secret documents recovered in the course of the mission.

For those not familiar enough with one or both of the movies, here's the gist: Escape from New York stars Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, a convict sent to rescue the President of the United States after the leader crash lands into a giant maximum security prison that used to be Manhattan. Lockout stars Guy Pearce as a wrongly convicted man sent to rescue the daughter of the President of the United States after she's held hostage at a giant maximum security prison that orbits Earth.

Apparently, "the difference in the location of the action and the more modern character featured in Lockout was not enough to differentiate the two films," according to the ruling. The thing is, space was to be the setting for another sequel to Escape from New York titled Escape from Earth, and maybe Carpenter recognized that any chance of his finally making that was now harmed by the release of this ripoff.

In his win, Carpenter will receive more than $20,000 from EuroCorp, while Escape from New York co-writer Nick Castle will get half that amount. And another $58,000 will go to the company that owns the rights to the 1981 movie. That should help pay one below-the-line crew member working on the still planned Escape from New York remake.   

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