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"This is hell and I'm going to give you a guided tour!" With these chilling words, the warden welcomes Frank Leone to Gateway Prison, a nightmare jail where every minute is hard time. The warden wants vengeance for the past; Leone wants only to survive the present. Their explosive battle of wills is the electrifying heart of one of Stallone's most heroic thrillers, Lock Up. Stallone gives a monumental performance as Leone, a convict driven to break his own cherished code by a warden who will stop at nothing to get him.
For more about Lock Up and the Lock Up Blu-ray release, see Lock Up Blu-ray Review published by Dustin Somner on September 11, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Donald Sutherland, John Amos, Tom Sizemore, Frank McRae, Darlanne Fluegel
Director: John Flynn
» See full cast & crew
Lock Up Blu-ray Review
While it never strays far from the path of your typical 80's action flick, Lock Up remains a blast from start to finish.
Reviewed by Dustin Somner, September 11, 2010
The 1980's marked a turning point in the career of Sylvester Stallone, effectively catapulting him into the upper echelon of action superheroes. In fact, by the time Lock Up hit theaters, he'd already churned out a third Rambo film, a fourth Rocky hit, and a handful of cult classics for his growing fan base. 1989 wasn't exactly a profound year in Stallone's blossoming career, but considering he released two films (Lock Up, Tango & Cash) immediately prior to the decade of decline for brawny action heroes, one could easily say he entered the 1990's at full speed. I suppose that's one of the primary reasons he continued to find successful roles in Hollywood despite the decline of other aging action stars, propelling him into a category that transcends the comical plight of Steven Seagal, Dolph Lundgren and Wesley Snipes.
With only six months left on his prison sentence, Frank Leone (Sylvester Stallone) is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, dreaming of a future with his girlfriend Melissa (Darlanne Fluegel) and a peaceful existence as an auto mechanic. All seems well in the friendly setting of his minimum security prison cell until he's suddenly awakened in the dead of night and transported to a vicious correctional facility known as Gateway. Baffled by the reasoning for this sudden move, Leone comes face to face with the devilish Warden Drumgoole (Donald Sutherland), who holds a personal vendetta against Leone stemming from a situation in their past. Employing every resource possible to break the will of his short-time prisoner, the warden discovers an unquenchable spirit residing within Leone, which threatens to undermine his authority among the prisoner population as well as the guards of the facility. As the battle of wills escalates to a fevered pitch, Leone must decide between his only shot at a legitimate future, or protecting those he cares for.
Considering it's been at least ten years since I've taken the time to revisit Lock Up, I entered this review with a fair bit of skepticism. After all, many of the action films I adored in my younger years have failed miserably in the battle against father time (Point Break, Iron Eagle, and The Perfect Weapon to name a few), so I wondered if the same would be said of Stallone's ham-fisted take on prison oppression. Fortunately, Lock Up managed to avoid a dramatic drop off in entertainment value and emerged as a consistently endearing (yet comically flawed) production. You'll never catch me quoting lines from the film, or offering praise for its realistic portrayal of prison justice, but if you can accept the cheesy 80's action genre for what it is, there's no reason to assume you won't enjoy this entry.
What I find interesting about the plot of the film is how simple it can be to debate both the flaws and strengths offered throughout. Beginning with the former, we're given your typical run-of-the-mill story about a wrongly convicted protagonist, who ends up in an impossible situation when he crosses a sadistic, career-driven warden. If I simply stopped right there, you might assume there's at least a basis for an entertaining film about a good man stretched to the breaking point. However, the whole concept quickly derails when we discover a villain so blinded by rage toward this single prisoner, that he's willing to have other prisoners killed, put the lives of his guards on the line, and place what's left of his career in jeopardy simply to keep this one inmate locked up for the rest of his life. I won't go into the motivation that pushes him toward such a deranged path, but needless to say, it's not sufficient for most viewers to buy into. Further proving this point, it makes no sense that the warden would have others killed around Leone (in order to push him over the edge), when he could simply have his target eliminated by cronies in the prisoner population. I suppose an argument could be made for the warden's desire to torture Leone in every way possible, but the lengths he goes to eventually become ridiculously unbelievable.
Despite the preposterous nature of the storyline, Lock Up bombards viewers with growing frustration and anger at the treatment of Leone, providing an unbreakable emotional connection that almost allows us to overlook the flaws mentioned in the prior paragraph. Interspersed with the constant barrage of tragedy are little snippets of reward (such as the completion of the rebuilt car, the emergence of Leone's new friend at a critical point in the football game, or the delicious revenge visited upon a particularly nasty guard), which often serve as character-building moments for the audience to relate to. Without these segments, the film may have descended into depressing territory, which doesn't quite fit the bill for an 80's action film.
Lock Up Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in 1080p utilizing the AVC codec (at an average bitrate of 28Mbps), Lock Up appears better than expected for a film of this vintage. Fine object detail isn't the greatest I've witnessed among action films of the late-80's, but once you progress through an exceptionally hazy opening sequence, the rest of the film cleans up nicely. Whether we're witnessing the beads of sweat on Stallone's brow or the five o'clock shadow on Sizemore's chin, subtle textures can be found in most close-ups, providing a sense of depth that's occasionally lost in the medium and long distance footage. Moving along to the coloring of the film, you can expect a muted spectrum that never appears vibrant or impressive, but seems fitting given the dreary cinematography. Along those same lines, black levels offers an adequate baseline for contrast to build upon, though the dark nature of the interior and exterior prison shots periodically expose the film to crush or a loss of shadow detail. Digging deeper into the transfer, I never noticed the presence of edge enhancement or aliasing, grain is surprisingly absent (or kept to a minimum), and there didn't appear to be any other digital anomalies worth pointing out. However, I was slightly concerned about the potential incorporation of DNR during the creation of this transfer (given the lack of grain and questionable clarity in medium distance shots), but given the impressive level of detail found during a large portion of the film, I'm willing to put those thoughts behind me and simply chalk it up to nuances in the cinematography.
Lock Up Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Despite the inclusion of a lossless 5.1 audio option, Lock Up remains a victim of less than ideal source elements that reveal limitations around every corner. Switching back and forth between the 5.1 and 2.0 English options (both lossless), I failed to notice much difference in the spatial separation on each mix. Dialog on the full surround track fell mostly to the center channel speaker, with effects and music dispersed across the two front mains. On the 2.0 option, every element is delivered through the two front mains, so dialog registers at a much higher volume than its surround counterpart, delivering an experience that often seemed better balanced. Unfortunately, given the age of the film and limitations in sound recording more than two decades ago, the two English offerings on the disc feel a bit on the bright side. There's no drop-off or muffling to add to the inherent problems, but despite the lack of any glaring flaws this is still a subpar audio offering on Blu-ray.
Lock Up Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Making Of (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 6:50 min): Unlike most "making-of" featurettes, this supplement focuses mainly on the story of Lock Up, providing snippets of character profiles followed by interviews with the cast. Occasionally the narration turns to a more traditional focus centered on set design or location scouting, but it never quite made up for the "marketing fluff" structure that permeates the supplement.
Sylvester Stallone Profile (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 3:13 min): This brief extra includes interviews with Stallone in addition to behind the scenes footage of the cast and crew at work. Filmed around the time of Lock Up's original release, it provides Stallone's version of what acting is all about and how the themes from the film influenced his role.
Behind the Scenes (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, 8:12 min): Some of this footage can be found within other supplements on the disc, but this raw collection of clips digs even further into the actual day-to-day work of the cast and crew.
Interviews (480p, Dolby Digital 2.0, various length): Viewers are given the choice of five interviews with members of the original cast (Sylvester Stallone, Donald Sutherland, Sonny Landham, John Amos, and Darlanne Flugel), as they answer questions about character motivations in the story and offer little bits of trivia regarding the shooting of Lock Up.
Rounding out the extras, we have a standard definition trailer for Lock Up and two tutorials on setting up your audio/video for optimal performance.
Lock Up Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Lock Up remains an obvious recommendation if you adore action films from the 1980's. Though overshadowed by multiple superior films in the mindless action genre, Stallone's take on the reluctant hero hasn't lost its luster in the past two decades, despite the declining acceptance of overly-contrived plotlines among your typical movie-going audience. Bottom line, if you're in the mood for adrenaline pumping entertainment riddled with cheesy one-liners, Lock Up should suffice.
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Lock Up Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Rambo Extended Cut and More Blu-ray from Lionsgate in July - May 7, 2010
Lionsgate Home Entertainment has announced a set of catalog movies for release on Blu-ray on July 27 to tie in with the theatrical release of Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables: Johnny Handsome, Lock Up, Rambo: Extended Cut (with 9 minutes of additional footage) ...
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