Balboa Behind Bars: Lock Up

When we look back on 1989, it was a year of triumph: the Velvet Revolution, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the opening of the Skydome, and Warner Bros. release of Tango & Cash, a breezy action-comedy romp starring Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell. Alas it was also a year of tragedy, the Exxon Valdez, Tiananmen Square, Woodstock ’89 and Lock Up, a middling prison potboiler starring Sylvester Stallone and John Amos.

Lock Up was the “other” Balboa-behind-bars flick of ’89. The one nobody saw apparently, as it didn’t even muster half the box office of its kissin’ cousin, T&C. Why? Well, where should we begin?

Imagine, if you would, the Shawshank Redemption,"the Greatest Movie of All-Time." Trade up Tim Robbins for the Italian Stallion. Now substitute Tom Sizemore for Morgan Freeman. Then take the bible-thumpin’ Bob Gunton and replace him with a scenery-chewin’ Donald Sutherland. Now carefully strain out the subtlety, humanity, poetic dialogue, soaring score and compelling narrative. Now go hop on your bicycle and borrow a soil auger from Ol' Farmer Littlejohn. Take said auger and drill a large post hole right in Shawshank’s cerebellum. Now flambĂ©. Season with garlic and herbs. Serves seven.

Sly plays local mechanic, Frank Leone. Frank’s a “good guy who made a mistake way back when” and he’s dutifully paying his penance to society; when with six months left, sadistic, grudge-bearing Warden Drumgoole (eat your heart out, Dickens) has him transferred to Hell On Earth: Gateway Prison.

The rest pretty much writes itself. The Warden fucks with Frank. Frank is resilient, make a few pals. The Warden hires the seedier prison element to the fuck with Frank. Said seedier element kills one of Frank’s pals. Frank’s taken to the brink, never loses his cool, and sees freedom once again. Cue Survivor. Fin.

The end result is more akin to Chained Heat II rather then say, I Am a Fugitive From A Chain Gang. And just to drip venom in your wallet’s wound, the whole affair is saccharine-coated with one of Bill Conti’s most maudlin scores yet. The only element that makes this steaming bucket of rhinoceros piss worth recommendation is the presence of the endlessly watchable psychopath, Sonny Landham. But rather then rent Lock Up, why not purchase THIS fine item and stare at it for 115 minutes. No doubt, you’ll find the experience more intellectually stimulating.


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