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Blu-Ray Review: Lock Up (1989)

Sylvester Stallone’s career was on a high around the time Lock Up, one of his lesser known pictures, came to bear at the tail end of the 1980’s.

The same year as the popular Tango & Cash, three years after the towering success of the unforgettable Rocky IV, and a year after the guns blazing bravado of Rambo III, Lock Up sees Stallone riding his natural charisma and innate mix of machismo and vulnerability to diminishing returns. A direct attempt to challenge himself beyond the two major franchises which have marked his career, Lock Up suffers from simply being quite bland, rote, underwritten and stocked with cliches. Stallone’s spiritual successor a quarter of a century later, Escape Plan, at least has the virtue of being absurd. Lock Up seems to want you to believe it’s all quite plausible.

In truth, it’s about as high concept as films like this come. Stallone’s mechanic, Frank Leone, is a good guy who just happens to be in jail, serving his time as he awaits release and a life with his girlfriend, only to become the victim of the sadistic, vengeful Warden Drumgoole, of the infamous Gateway prison – a maximum security prison where the lowest of the low are sent to rot in hellish conditions. Can Frank find strength in adversity and gain the respect of his fellow prisoners? Can he expose Drumgoole’s cruelty and corruption before he ends up dead? Can he be reunited with the woman he loves?

It’s a Stallone movie. Of course he can. It’s just that this time, the journey along the way isn’t nearly as thrilling, charming or action packed as usual.

The sad thing is that the film does have some pedigree. 

The director, John Flynn, was best known for quality 70’s pictures such as The Outfit or Rolling Thunder, films which have very much stood the test of time. Drumgoole is played by the rasping Donald Sutherland, but even he looks too bored with the average script to show up with a memorably vicious, lisping turn as a fairly one-dimensional baddie. A pre-scandal Tom Sizemore and character veterans John Amos, Frank McRae & Sonny Landham line up in support. It should all have delivered more punch around a noble, everyman Stallone performance which is solid enough. Everything around him is just wanting.

Even StudioCanal don’t add much in the way of meat on the bones with this release, which includes:

  • Making Of (HD, 7 mins.)
  • Featurette: Sylvester Stallone (HD, 4 mins.)
  • Behind the Scenes (HD, 9 mins.)
  • Interview with Sylvester Stallone (HD, 5 mins.)
  • Interview with Donald Sutherland (HD, 30 secs.)
  • Interview with Sonny Landham (HD, 1 min.)
  • Interview with John Amos (HD, 20 secs.)
  • Interview with Darlanne Fluegel (HD, 1 min.)
  • Original Trailer (HD, 3 mins.)

Nevertheless, Lock Up is one for Stallone completists only, or as a trashy double bill with Escape Plan. Even Sly has admitted the whole thing isn’t very good. When it comes from the big man himself, who are we to argue?

★★

Lock Up is now available on BluRay/Ultra HD 4K from StudioCanal.

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