Lock Up (1989 film)

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Lock Up
Lock up.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Flynn
Written by
Produced by
CinematographyDonald E. Thorin
Edited by
  • Don Brochu
  • Robert A. Ferretti
  • Michael N. Knue
  • Barry B. Leirer
Music byBill Conti
Carolco Pictures[1]
White Eagle Pictures[2]
Distributed byTri-Star Pictures[2]
Release date
  • August 4, 1989 (1989-08-04) (United States)
Running time
100 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$24 million[3]
Box office$22 million[4]

Lock Up is a 1989 American prison action film[5][6] directed by John Flynn. It stars Sylvester Stallone, Donald Sutherland, Tom Sizemore, and John Amos. It was released in the United States on August 4, 1989.

Stallone later said it was "Not a film that was produced and performed with enough maturity to really make a significant impact on the audience or my career. And that's the truth".[7]


Frank Leone, a skilled mechanic 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 on furlough in his garage fixing cars, playing football and spending time with his girlfriend Melissa.

One night, while sleeping in his cell, guards arrive and forcibly take Leone to a brutal maximum security Gateway Prison run by Warden Drumgoole. Drumgoole explains to him that he arranged this in retaliation for a past incident in which Leone escaped from Drumgoole's previous post, Treadmore Prison, and informed the press about Drumgoole's treatment of his prisoners, after Drumgoole refused to allow Leone a one-hour furlough to visit his dying mentor. Not only did this incident result in five additional years in minimum security being added to Leone's sentence, but in Drumgoole's transfer to Gateway, a negative mark on his job record.

Leone is mistreated by the guards and by a dominant inmate, Chink Weber, who acts as a trusty for Drumgoole. Leone also befriends fellow prisoners Dallas, Eclipse, and First-Base, and shows them how he deals with the hardship of prison. The foursome refurbish a Ford Mustang in the prison shop, which Eclipse nicknames "Maybelline". Leone explains to Eclipse that he was sent to prison for taking the law into his own hands when he avenged an attack on his mentor. After Leone reluctantly allows First-Base to start the car, First-Base drives the Mustang out of the garage and into the prison yard. After his joy ride ends, Drumgoole makes Leone and his friends watch as other inmates destroy the car. Leone is also sent to solitary confinement for six weeks. There, Leone is tortured by the guards who wake him at random points in the middle of the night, forcing him to face a security camera and recite his name and prisoner number. However, the guards' captain, Meissner, and one other guard, Braden, become so disgusted with the crude sadism of the warden and his toadies that Meissner orders it to stop and releases Leone from confinement.

Aiming to force Leone to snap and compromise his position, the warden has Chink Weber kill First-Base in the gym. Enraged, Leone attacks Chink, rendering him helpless, but before he kills him, he relents, knowing that committing such an act is precisely what Drumgoole wants. Seizing this opportunity, one of Chink's goons impales Leone from behind with a shank. As Leone recovers in the prison infirmary, another prisoner tells him that he has been hired to rape and murder Melissa. That night, Leone attempts his escape with Dallas to try and save Melissa, however Dallas lures him to a dead end, where they are captured by Drumgoole and his guards, among them, the one who posed as the prisoner who claimed he would rape Melissa. It is revealed that Drumgoole arranged this to provoke Leone into attempting an escape, in order to have a mandatory 10-year sentence imposed upon him, and convinced Dallas to assist him in his plan in exchange for an early release, though Drumgoole reneges on this after Leone's capture. Drumgoole leaves the two inmates to be beaten by the guards, but Dallas, knowing the other prisoners would kill him after setting up Leone, apologizes to Leone and electrocutes himself and officer Manly to help Leone escape.

Enraged, Leone breaks into Drumgoole's office instead of escaping, takes him to the execution chamber and straps him to the electric chair. He activates the generator and secures his hand to the switch. The prison guards break into the execution viewing room, leading to an armed standoff. Under threat of being executed, the warden finally confesses to his plot to increase Leone's prison time. Leone pulls the switch anyway but nothing happens. He then reveals he took one of the fuses out before to trick the warden into confessing. Captain Meissner and his men cuff Leone, but they also take Drumgoole into custody for the legal confession.

A judicial inquiry is made into the matter about the warden's corrupt behavior and Leone serves only the prison time required of him in the first place. A few weeks later, Leone leaves prison to the cheers of his fellow inmates and meets up with Eclipse one last time. He wishes Captain Meissner farewell and exits Gateway to embrace the waiting Melissa.



Box office[edit]

Lock Up grossed $22.1 million on a budget of $24 million.[3]

Critical response[edit]

Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 23% of 13 surveyed critics gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 4.38/10.[8] On Metacritic, Lock Up is ranked 52 out of a 100 by 6 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[9]

Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times wrote that Stallone "defies credibility to the point of inviting unintended laughter."[10]

Hal Hinson of The Washington Post wrote, "Lock Up bears the unmistakable mark of a vanity production".[11]

In his annual Movie & Video Guide, film historian Leonard Maltin gave the picture 1.5 out of a possible 4 stars, comparing the movie unfavorably to Chained Heat.[12]

Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Easton, Nina J. (September 23, 1990). "Hollywood's Billion Dollar Man: Competing Studios Aren't Exactly Thrilled With Carolco Pictures' Big-Spending Ways, But Mario Kassar Says, Hey, It Works for Him". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c "Lock Up". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Easton, Nina J. (August 16, 1989). "Box Office Cold to Stallone's 'Lock Up' Role". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  4. ^ "Lock Up (1989) - Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  5. ^ "The Prison Action Film 'Lock Up' is Coming to 4K Ultra HD". The Good Men Project. September 10, 2019. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  6. ^ "Lock Up (1989) - John Flynn". AllMovie. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  7. ^ Kilday, Gregg (June 4, 1993). "Stallone on Stallone -- The Cliffhanger star looks back at some of his career highs and lows, including Rocky, Rhinestone, and more". Entertainment Weekly.
  8. ^ "Lock Up (1989)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  9. ^ "Lock Up (1989)". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  10. ^ Thomas, Kevin (August 4, 1989). "Movie Review: More Muscular Madness From Stallone in 'Lock Up'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  11. ^ Hinson, Hal (August 4, 1989). "Lock Up". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  12. ^ Maltin's TV, Move, & Video Guide
  13. ^ "CinemaScore". cinemascore.com. Retrieved July 27, 2021.

External links[edit]