Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Sylvester Stallone in the 1980s - Lock Up















A handsome but routine amble around the prison yard. Lock Up sees Sylvester Stallone's Frank Leone dragged away from a minimally secure, weekend release haven and dumped into Gateway Prison, a mud streaked correctional facility built out of equal parts rust and tetanus. Frank's unforgivable crime? He really upset Donald Sutherland's needy Warden Drumgoole by escaping from one of Drumgoole's previous postings, thus torpedoing the brush cut WASP's career.

In its early moments Lock Up sets the stage for some sustained antagonism with Drumgoole pushing Leone to his physical and mental limits in an environment that resembles a Soviet labour camp. Rolling Thunder director John Flynn complies with this conceit, amping up the unpredictability factor by crowding his frames with genuine, weathered prison faces and real-life nutter Sonny Landham. This pressure cooker plotting quickly falls apart though, and soon enough we're stuck watching a basic incarceration narrative unspool.

Despite its adult rating, Lock Up only really proposes danger. We spend far too much time in chummy environments watching healthy, well-fed actors spitballing their idea of prison camaraderie. Stallone should be an albatross around his friend's necks but, unfortunately, most of his best buds make it into the final act relatively unscathed. Likewise, a final, suicidal confrontation between Leone and Drumgoole suggests both a glorious immolation and an opportunity for Stallone to do some death-by-cop acting. Of course, the One Noble Guard comes to the rescue, ending the film on a back-patting love-in instead.

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