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Lock Up


‘…John Flynn’s film is representative of the quirks of Stallone’s remarkably personal oeuvre…’

To celebrate the release of the passable Creed III and as part of my Stallone Again Naturally series of articles about the Rocky star, this critic finally felt moved to exhume Lock Up, one of his least popular efforts from the 80’s. While Sylvester Stallone’s career as a major star was still going strong as he developed Rocky and Rambo into franchises, his original efforts left something to be desired, and Stallone in the Slammer wasn’t a concept that put bums on seats. But John Flynn’s film is representative of the quirks of Stallone’s remarkably personal oeuvre, and proves a rewarding watch when approached correctly.

Escape has always been a big part of Stallone’s mind-set; we’re now on Escape Plan 3, while titles like Escape to Victory and Daylight offer a similar insight into the elusive visible goal required for a Stallone motivational text. Lock Up begins with an ancient cliché, lots of old photos in frames establishing what a great guy our hero Frank Leone is; we even see him blowing dust off one and polishing it so we know how much the snap meant to him as Bill Conti’s sad piano plays. Frank Leone is in jail for undisclosed reasons, and can only visit his girlfriend on weekends despite being a model prisoner. But things change for Frank Leone when Warden Drumgoole, the brutal governor of another jail, decides to take revenge against Leone for some negative comments in the past by putting him in a maximum security mega-jail and tormenting the poor soul by dressing him and his fellow inmates as Andy Pandy.

Who could play Drumgoole? If you had Donald Sutherland with a buzz-cut and moustache combo on your bingo card, you’re in luck; ‘This is hell and I’m going to give you the guided tour!’ Drumgoole patiently explains to Leone, a peaceful man who is not pleased with the new arrangements. But Leone is literally the bigger man, and instead of going on a blue-balls rampage when Drumgoole cruelly impinges on his conjugal visits, Leone works out his energy by befriending other inmates (the late Tom Sizemore, John Amos) and inspiring them to play sports AND repair cars in other montage-ready be-all-you-can-be music videos sequences. Sizemore actually makes an impression here in a weirdo role; as the canteen slop is dished onto his plastic tray, he quips; ‘That’s just like mom used to make. That’s why I shot her.’ Elsewhere, it’s the 80’s, so lots of ceiling and wall fans, even more steam, Stallone refuses to submit to authority, in a Cool Hand Luke style, and Drumgoogle eventually gets taken down a peg or two on an antique electric chair.

But what makes Lock Up a winning proposition these days is the music; Stallone’s personal taste always informs his soundtrack choices, and it’s not hard to see how he came up with the choons that enliven this film. We’re often told to beware the Ides of March, but not when they’ve got a banger like Vehicle, appropriately used for a gay AF workshop montage which features grown men spraying each other with hoses and paint. That’s a stone cold classic and no messing, but the discerning Stallone fan will find themselves drawn to another song from the pen of Jim Peterik, Ever Since The World Began. It’s a monumental tune with vocals by the classic lead singer of Survivor, something of a house band for the Rocky films. For your entertainment and elucidation, I’ve provided links to both game-changing tracks above; you’ll come to Lock Up for Stallone, but it’s his amazeballs musical choices that make watching Lock Up such a beguiling proposition these days.


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  1. I bow to your superior musical knowledge. It’d be rare I’d revisit a movie just for its soundtrack, no matter how apt. But as the roster of genuine Hollywood leading men diminishes – those whose appeal rarely outlasts a comic-book fling – I’m tending to look back on even the poorest of Stallone vehicles with more affection.

    • Two stirring tunes to work out to on a Sunday Morning! This sums up the story of Lock Up so well…

      And we’re just another piece of the puzzle
      Just another part of the plan
      How one life catches the other
      Is so hard to understand
      Still we walk this road together
      We try and go as far as we can
      And we have waited for this moment in time
      Ever since the world began.

  2. Saw this at the megaplex when it came out. Same year as Jason Takes Manhattan, which I also saw at the megaplex. Around about the time I stopped going to see movies . . .

  3. What is the actress’s name who plays his girlfriend? You left that important detail out. I’m assuming because she isn’t actually in the movie?

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