Lock Up (film)

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Lock Up
Lock up.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Flynn
Produced by Charles Gordon
Lawrence Gordon
Written by Richard Smith
Jeb Stuart
Henry Rosenbaum
Starring Sylvester Stallone
Donald Sutherland
John Amos
Darlanne Fluegel
Frank McRae
Sonny Landham
Music by Bill Conti
Cinematography Donald E. Thorin
Edited by Don Brochu
Robert A. Ferretti
Michael N. Knue
Barry B. Leirer
Gordon Company
White Eagle Pictures
Carolco Pictures
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release dates
  • August 4, 1989 (1989-08-04)
Running time
115 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $24 million[1]
Box office $22,099,847 (US)[2]

Lock Up is a 1989 American prison action film directed by John Flynn. The film stars Sylvester Stallone and Donald Sutherland. The film was released in the United States on August 4, 1989.


Frank Leone, a skilled mechanic and football player, in Hoboken, New Jersey is a model prisoner nearing the end of his sentence in Norwood, a low security prison. He occasionally spends time outside prison in his garage fixing cars and looking at pictures of his childhood and high school football years and pictures of him with his father. He also spends time with his girlfriend Melissa and he goes to the park playing football with kids in the neighbourhood. Melissa drives him back dropping him off at prison and gives him a lucky charm necklace. One night while sleeping in his cell, guards arrive and forcibly take Leone to maximum security Gateway Prison run by Warden Drumgoole. Drumgoole explains that Leone will serve hard time—Leone was the only person to escape from Treadmore and did so on Drumgoole's watch. Leone escaped because his mentor and friend was dying; Leone was refused even one hour to see him. Leone went to the press about the warden's treatment of his prisoners, resulting in Drumgoole's transfer to Gateway and Leone serving in minimum security before his transfer.

Leone befriends fellow prisoners Dallas, Eclipse, and First-Base. The foursome refurbish a Ford Mustang, which Eclipse nicknames "Maybelline". After Leone reluctantly allows First-Base to start the car he refuses to turn it off and drives the Mustang out of the garage. Drumgoole has them watch as inmates destroy the car and Leone is subsequently sent to solitary confinement for six weeks. The warden orders that the letters sent to him from his girlfriend Melissa be stashed away but as Leone is released Braden, an honest prison guard, secretly delivers them to Leone.

Upon release, the warden wants an excuse to slap Leone with more time, so he allows prisoner Chink Weber and his bullying friends to kill First-Base in the gym. Leone fights and defeats Chink, but he spare's Chink's life because he knows that's precisely what Drumgoole wants. Since Leone didn't kill Chink one of Chink's friends stabs Leone from behind with a shank. Whilst Leone recovers in the prison infirmary, one night a stranger, an inmate who claims to be an old friend from Treadmore, says that Chink has paid him to rape and murder Melissa. Dallas offers to help Leone escape to warn Melissa but instead delivers Leone to the utility basement right into Drumgoole's hands where he finds out that Drumgoole wanted him to try to escape so he would receive a mandatory 10-year sentence for the second escape attempt and the inmate who was going to rape Melissa was just a corrupt prison guard called Mastrone who was part of the warden's scheme to set Leone up.

Dallas agreed with the warden to lead Leone into a trap only if the warden would give Dallas an early release from prison. But the warden betrays Dallas telling him he doesn't make deals with escaped prisoners. He then tells Dallas he'll be sent back to the prison's general population, and since they now know he's a snitch the inmates will kill him. Dallas tries to attack the warden but the corrupt sadistic prison guards beat him up and push him into a pool of water. The warden then leaves the sadistic guards to physically abuse Leone by pushing his face into a cloud of hot steam from the pipes. Leone breaks free burning Wiley, one of the guards, in the steam and knocking out Mastrone he then fights the sadistic guard Manly and beats him up and pushes him into the same pool of water Dallas fell into. Dallas, badly beaten up, apologizes to Leone and as Leone tries to help him Manly attacks Leone from the water and Dallas then rips an electric cable off the railing and electrocutes Manly in the water, taking his own life as well. Leone, who wasn't in the water, survives.

Enraged, Leone breaks into Drumgoole's office and takes him to the execution chamber and straps him to the electric chair. Leone activates the generator and secures his hand to the switch. The guards organize into a response team and secure heavy weaponry. The prison guards break into the execution chamber and point their weapons at Leone, but if he is shot he will trip the switch and kill Drumgoole. The warden finally confesses to his plot to increase Leone's jail time. Leone pulls the switch but nothing happens; he then reveals he took one of the fuses out to trick the warden into confessing. Captain Meissner and his men cuff Frank whom the warden orders to be taken to the hole; however, Meissner and his men don't. They take Drumgoole into custody for the confession though the warden insists that he merely played along to save his life.

A judicial inquiry is made into the matter about the warden's corrupt behavior and Leone serves only the jail time required of him in the first place. A few weeks later Frank leaves prison to the cheers of his fellow inmates. He meets up with Eclipse one last time, and receives a Cuban cigar which supposedly was given to Eclipse by Fidel Castro. He tells the captain who walks him to the exit that he'll miss his incredible smile and Captain Meissner shakes his hand and says his farewell. Frank then exits Gateway and embraces the waiting Melissa.



John Flynn later recalled how the movie was made:

Stallone had a “window,” which means the guy was available for a certain window of time. Larry Gordon had a terrible script set in a prison. Stallone calls James Woods and asks if I’m any good as a director. Woods says yeah, he’s a good director and you ought to work with him. So we have a director and a star, but no script. All we have is a theme - a guy escaping from prison. So we hire Jeb Stuart, who was then one of the hottest writers in Hollywood, to rewrite the script and we go off looking for prison locations. Now we have a star, a theme, a shooting date, a budget, a studio, but we still have no script. So we all go back to New York and move into a hotel where Larry “tortures” Jeb and Henry Rosenbaum into writing a script in record time. Meanwhile, I’m going around scouting prisons. We finally found one in Rahway, New Jersey. Jeb and Henry were writing the script as we were making the movie. New pages would come in every day. There was one day when I was on the third tier of a cellblock in Rahway Penitentiary and I had nothing to shoot. I had my movie star, all these extras and a great location - and the pages were on their way. So we sat around and bullshitted with the prisoners. Stallone is a smart guy and a very underrated actor. If I ever needed a better line, he’d come up with one. Stallone is a really hard worker. I had no problem whatsoever with him.[3]


Box Office[edit]

Lock Up did poorly at the American box office, making $22,099,847 on a budget of $24 million.[4]


Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 17% of twelve surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 4.2/10.[5] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote that Stallone "defies credibility to the point of inviting unintended laughter."[6] Hal Hinson of The Washington Post wrote, "Lock Up bears the unmistakable mark of a vanity production".[7]

The film was nominated for three Razzie Awards including Worst Picture, Worst Actor for Sylvester Stallone and Worst Supporting Actor for Donald Sutherland, but failed to win any of those categories.[8]


  1. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/1989-08-16/entertainment/ca-679_1_stallone-film
  2. ^ "Lock Up (1989) - Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 2011-07-24. 
  3. ^ Harvey Chartand, "Interview with John Flynn", Shock Cinema 2005
  4. ^ Easton, Nina J. (1989-08-16). "Box Office Cold to Stallone's 'Lock Up' Role". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-09-29. 
  5. ^ "Lock Up (1989)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  6. ^ Thomas, Kevin (1989-08-04). "Muscular Madness From Stallone in 'Lock Up'". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-09-29. 
  7. ^ "Lock Up". Washington Post. 1989-08-04. Retrieved 2010-09-29. 
  8. ^ http://www.razzies.com/forum/1989-razzie-nominees-winners_topic339.html

External links[edit]