Lock Up

Lock Up
Original title:Lock Up
Director:John Flynn
Running time:100 minutes
Release date:04 august 1989
After serving a light sentence, Frank Leone is about to leave prison. But Drumgoole, the warden who has been humiliated by Frank Leone in the past, is determined not to let his prisoner out so easily.

Mulder's Review

In memory of Donald Sutherland

Although not as popular as the "Rocky" or "Rambo" franchises, Lock Up offers a unique insight into Sylvester Stallone's personal themes and storytelling preferences. Directed by John Flynn, this prison drama speaks volumes about Sylvester Stallone's approach to filmmaking, and is well worth a look for its rich, if imperfect, storytelling.

Sylvester Stallone's filmography frequently explores the theme of escape, as evidenced by films such as "Escape Plan", "Escape to Victory" and "Daylight". Lock Up is no different, beginning with a series of nostalgic stills that present Frank Leone, played by Sylvester Stallone, as a beloved and wrongly imprisoned man. These opening scenes, underscored by Bill Conti's melancholy piano score, set the emotional tone. Frank Leone, though a model prisoner, is transferred to a maximum-security prison run by the vindictive Warden Drumgoole, played by Donald Sutherland. This situation underscores Stallone's recurring motif of characters struggling against oppressive systems.

Donald Sutherland delivers a remarkable performance as Warden Drumgoole, a character defined by his sadistic tendencies and personal vendetta against Frank Leone. Donald Sutherland's transformation, with a buzz cut and mustache, adds to the character's menacing presence. His line "It's hell and I'll give you the tour" sums up Drumgoole's malevolent intentions. The personal conflict between Drumgoole and Leone is a driving force behind the film, offering a captivating tale of revenge and resistance.

Sylvester Stallone brings his characteristic charisma and physicality to the role of Frank Leone. Leone's determination and leadership shine through as he navigates the harsh realities of maximum-security prison. Sylvester Stallone's portrayal of Leone as a resilient, inspirational figure resonates, particularly in scenes where he bonds with fellow inmates such as Dallas, played by Tom Sizemore, and Eclipse, played by John Amos. These relationships give depth to Leone's character and highlight the themes of solidarity and hope in the face of adversity.

The Lock Up soundtrack is a testament to Sylvester Stallone's impeccable musical taste. Tracks such as "Vehicle" by The Ides of March and "Ever Since The World Began" by Jim Peterik, featuring the voice of the lead singer of Survivor, punctuate the film's key moments. These songs, especially during the film's motivational montages, create a vibrant, nostalgic atmosphere. The car restoration scene, punctuated by these energetic tunes, illustrates the film's defining blend of camaraderie and resilience.

Lock Up, written by Richard Smith, Jeb Stuart and Henry Rosenbaum, adheres to many conventions of prison drama. The film features typical elements such as brutal guards, knife fights and a final escape. However, John Flynn's direction enhances these familiar tropes, particularly in the film's middle section and climax. Memorable sequences, such as the inmates' restoration of a classic car and the intense final confrontation between Frank Leone and Warden Drumgoole, provide the visceral excitement you'd expect from a Sylvester Stallone film.

Lock Up has found its place as a cult classic. Its B-list escapism and '80s charm offer nostalgic appeal, especially for fans of Sylvester Stallone and prison dramas. The film's engaging performances and memorable soundtrack contribute to its lasting impact. Lock Up may not be a groundbreaking film, but it is undeniably captivating and offers valuable insight into Sylvester Stallone's thematic preoccupations. The film's exploration of escape, resilience and camaraderie fits into Stallone's body of work, making it an interesting addition to his filmography. The dynamic between Frank Leone and Warden Drumgoole, combined with the film's memorable musical moments and editing, creates a compelling visual experience.

Lock Up is an intriguing entry in Sylvester Stallone's career. Its blend of action, drama and 80s nostalgia makes it a fascinating film for fans and newcomers alike. Despite its adherence to genre conventions, the film's strong performances - particularly those of Sylvester Stallone and Donald Sutherland - and its unforgettable soundtrack make Lock Up a rewarding and entertaining piece of cinema. Whether you're a Stallone fan, or just fancy a classic prison drama, Lock Up offers a unique and captivating cinematic experience.

Lock Up
Directed by John Flynn
Written by Richard Smith, Jeb Stuart, Henry Rosenbaum
Produced by Charles Gordon, Lawrence Gordon
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Donald Sutherland, John Amos, Darlanne Fluegel, Frank McRae, Sonny Landham
Cinematography : Donald E. Thorin
Edited by Don Brochu, Robert A. Ferretti, Michael N. Knue, Barry B. Leirer
Music by Bill Conti
Production companies: Carolco Pictures, White Eagle Pictures
Distributed by Tri-Star Pictures (United States), 
Release date : August 4, 1989 (United States), August 30, 1989 (France)
Running time : 100 minutes

Seen August 30, 1989 at the Majestic Meaux cinema
Reviewed on June 22, 2024 (DVD)

Mulder's Mark: