Lock Up (Blu-ray Review)

I’m an unabashed Sylvester Stallone fan especially when it comes to the Rocky and Rambo movies.  Back in the 80s he was in top form but towards the end of the decade, I noticed the quality of his movies were starting to go down starting with Cobra and then continuing on with movies like Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! Lock Up falls squarely in that period but fares a little better than a lot of those.  It seems like Stallone was getting restless and most likely felt typecast and was trying as many different genres as possible. Sometimes they worked even if they weren’t appreciated like Oscar and Tango and Cash, and others like Judge Dredd and Assassins failed. I still don’t understand how Assassins didn’t turn out better with that cast and under the masterful direction of Richard Donner.  No matter how the movies turned out, I always respected Stallone for having the cojones to even try to do something different than what he was known for. For Lock Up, it’s a mix of what he is known for along with some serious dramatic scenes which worked well for Stallone with First Blood but this movie doesn’t have the same impact but I did enjoy the battle of wills along with a great 80s era cast.


When the movie starts, Frank Leone is almost finished serving time for a minor crime.  He seems to be allowed to complete his sentence on a part time basis and he’s on good terms with the guards at a minimum-security jail where he is finishing his time.  All of that changes when he is awoken at night and roughly transferred to the hardcore Gateway Prison where Warden Drumgoole rules with an iron fist.  Drumgoole has a vendetta against Frank because of Frank’s earlier escape from Treadmore Prison and his subsequent whistle blowing of the treatment the prisoners were receiving under Drumgoole’s supervision.  Because of Frank he was demoted and transferred to Gateway and is hell bent on making Frank pay for it.  The abuse begins with the Warden forcing Frank to endure the delousing chamber far longer than recommended and proceeds to do everything he can to make Frank suffer both directly and indirectly as he has ordered a dangerous prisoner named Chink Weber (Predator’s Sonny Latham), to take Frank out.

Frank isn’t completely alone though as he is joined by other inmates to rebuild a classic mustang.  Dallas (Tom Sizemore) a jumpy inmate with a tendency for sarcasm and jokes, Eclipse (Frank MacRae) who runs the auto shop, and First-Base (Larry Romano), a young kid who’s a little too cocky to avoid trouble in prison.  In an effort to break Frank, Drumgoole orders prison guards to beat him and isolates him for six weeks in the hole a hellish roach infested place where a bright light shines on him every hour and he must stand up and say his name and number or be beaten.  This treatment begins to trouble Captain Meissner (old favorite John Amos) who doesn’t mind roughing prisoners up a little but doesn’t agree with the brutality the Warden is pushing for.  Of course all of this leads to a predictable end.  As the tagline of the movie states, “How much can a man take…before he gives back?”

My biggest complaint about the movie is that it’s so predictable.  You know Frank is good at escaping prisons, you know who is going to betray Frank and which of his friends won’t make it, and that Frank will kick some ass before the movie is over.  I knew how the movie was going to end about 30 minutes into it but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it.  I liked the realism of the movies as it was really filmed at Rahway State Prison with real prisoners and it’s one of the most dangerous prisons in the United States.  The violence is realistic as well and was apparently choreographed by Stallone himself.  The cast does a good job with the script they were given especially Stallone, Sutherland, and Sizemore.  Sutherland in particular plays a very nasty individual but at the same time you can understand his anger.  Unfortunately for him, he pushes Frank too far and we all know what happens then.


After a rough patch at the beginning with some grainy titles the movie actually looks really good for a movie of it’s time.  The 1080p, 2.35:1 transfer has a nice crisp picture with nice detail and deep blacks.  The film has a washed out drab look appropriate for a prison setting so there’s not a lot of color popping out but there is fine detail in close-ups.  Although this movies was originally released by Columbia/TriStar, Lionsgate has done a good job with this transfer and fans of the movie should be pleased enough to get rid of their DVD and VHS copies of the movie.


The movie offers an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master track adapted from the original Dolby Stereo mix which is adequate but nothing spectacular.  This is a primarily dialogue driven movie so that’s not surprising and the dialogue is well served but there wasn’t a lot of use of the rear speakers or the LFE.  All in all, an average offering that suits the movie well but I couldn’t help but hope for more.  There is also a French 2.0 DTS-HD track and a Spanish mono track as well along with optional subtitles in all three languages.

Special Features  

The most interesting thing to me about watching the special features is that it looks like Stallone was directing the movie even though John Flynn was credited for it.  At the very least, it’s obvious that Stallone directed the action sequences which were quite good and realistic.  He really took some hard hits in the movie and it wasn’t a stuntman either. My respect for him went up even higher even though I was disappointed in the following extras that were ported over from the DVD release:

  • Making of – Basic EPK fluff that was fairly disappointing. I hate it when they repackage the same clips and use them for several “special features.”
  • Sylvester Stallone Profile – Bare bones look at Stallone.
  • Behind the Scenes – This and the Making of the movie featurette use the same clips. I think the other one is slightly better so just watch one.
  • Interviews with Cast – Same clips over again. Skip.
  • Theatrical trailer

Final Thoughts  

I guess I just expected too much from a Gordon Group (Die Hard 1 & 2) release with Jeb Stuart (Die Hard & The Fugitive) as one of the writers and this cast.  I think they had all the right elements to make a really good movie except for a good script.  The movie it’s tonally closest to would be First Blood which is a completely different movie than its sequels. This is a drama first and an action movie second so be forewarned, this isn’t a Rambo III type of movie.  I don’t know if I would recommend buying this unless you are a hardcore Stallone fan, but it’s worth a rental if you haven’t seen it.


Lock Up arrives on Blu-ray July 27th!  Pre-order yours now!



2 Responses to “Lock Up (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Sean Ferguson

    Wow I thought Brian would be excited about this one. I know he loves Stallone!

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