Director: John Flynn
Script: Richard Smith, Jeb Stuart & Henry Rosenbaum
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Donald Sutherland, John Amos, Darlanne Fluegel, Tom Sizemore, Frank McRae, William Allen Young, Larry Romano, Sonny Landham
Running time: 109 minutes
Back in the Eighties and early Nineties three action movie icons ruled the world-wide box-office: Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. Willis had his Die Hard franchise, Schwarzenegger his Terminator films and Stallone his Rocky and Rambo franchises, which are, decades later, both still going strong. In amongst all these conjoined movies Stallone (and the others) also starred in a range of box-office behemoths, along with some less celebrated films, one of which is this one, Lock Up.
I’ve always thought that Lock Up was an under-appreciated film that, at its time of release, disappointed many of Stallone’s then fans with its less bombastic approach and its relatively small-scale action, concentrating instead on the drama of one ordinary man who’s just trying to survive the prison system that he, unfortunately, finds himself to be a guest of.
Frank Leone (Stallone) returns from a weekend away from the minimum security prison that he’s based at, and is generally happy with his lot, knowing that he’s just got six more months of his sentence to do. However, corrupt warden Drumgoole, (Donald Sutherland), has other plans for him and has Leone forcibly taken from his prison cell in the middle of the night and transferred to the high security prison that he now runs.
It seems that Leone had turned whistle-blower on Drumgoole’s corrupt and brutal regime at a previous prison that Drumgoole had run, and had, therefore, got the warden into a lot of trouble, so much so that he had become something of a pariah within the prison system and the only job he could get, at his esteemed level, was overseeing the rot of the worst prison in the crumbling US penal system. Hence, the warden wants pay-back and is determined to make the rest of Frank’s life hell, and to try and keep him in the system for as long as he can, by whatever means necessary.
During his time at Gateway Prison Frank is harassed by the warden’s guards and stooges within the prison, is put in solitary confinement for six weeks, (during which time the warden tries to ensure that Frank has little sleep or rest), and he ends up getting shanked during a scuffle in the prison yard, resulting in him being put in the prison hospital. However, on the plus side, he does make some new friends and, as a group, they repair and part-build a vintage muscle car, well, until the warden orders its destruction.
Lock Up is well shot (with some good use of lighting and shadow effects) and well-acted by a nice range of chiefly male thespians that all lift the fairly predictable material up to near ‘classic’ standards. For example, it was great to see a young, slim-looking Tom Sizemore making the most of a good role as the prison’s ‘go to guy for getting stuff’. And Sonny Landham (Billy in Predator) plays the main prison inmate bully-boy character, Chink, really well too. Plus, it has to be said that Stallone really delivers in the acting stakes here too. While he’s never had quite the range of some more theatrically-trained actors, Sly has always put 100% effort into his acting and sometimes it really pays off, and this is one such example. Stallone’s Frank is a believable and likable blue-collar everyman kind of character, who is very relatable to many a ‘bloke’ around the planet. Sutherland is also on excellent form here as the scuzzy and morally corrupt prison warden.
Studiocanal has done a good job in putting out this limited edition 4K UHD Blu-ray, although, due to the nature of the film (being set in quite dreary surroundings), the colours are never really going to ‘pop out’ quite as nicely as they would normally do in a more colourful piece of work.
Studiocanal has just released this great Blu-ray edition of Lock Up and, as with most of Studiocanal releases, there are a plethora of extras to accompany the film. These include:
Making of (6.5 mins) – A fluffy electronic press-kit style ‘making of’, which is fun to watch, but fairly light on detail. We find out that the film was shot in five and a half weeks in an actual prison, which had over two thousand inmates!
Featurette: Sylvester Stallone (3 mins) – Another fluffy piece where Sly talks about the same stuff that’s in the ‘making of’. We learn that he did most of his own stunts though, and that the football match was particularly rough; he almost broke his leg!
Behind the scenes (8 mins) – This features some B-roll footage and we see Sly choreographing some of the fights, which is quite interesting.
Interviews with Donald Sutherland, Sonny Landham, Sly Stallone, John Amos and Darlene Flugel (7 mins) – Again this is all mostly stuff we’ve already seen in the other short ‘making of’ doc. Sadly, Sutherland looks like he’d rather not be interviewed (there’s only 21 seconds of him), but fortunately the others are more engaged.
Original trailer (2.5 mins) – This features a bit of footage that’s not in the film, namely Frank trying unsuccessfully to make an uninterrupted call to his girlfriend.