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Film review: Lock Up

Published: Saturday, Aug. 26 1989 12:00 a.m. MDT

It's easy to ridicule a movie like "Lock Up" — "Rocky Does Time," or maybe "Rambo in the Slammer." Or if you want to get a little more obscure, how about "Cobra Turns Con."

But the truth is "Lock Up," incredibly faithful to the formula we've come to expect in a Stallone picture, isn't any better or worse than anything else he's done lately.

This is simply his prison picture. ("Victory" doesn't really count; that was Stallone's version of "The Great Escape.")

When you think about it, most big male macho stars have one — Robert Redford ("Brubaker"), Paul Newman ("Cool Hand Luke"), Clint Eastwood ("Escape from Alcatraz"), Burt Reynolds ("The Longest Yard") — even Dustin Hoffman ("Papillon").

So, naturally, Stallone was bound to get around to it. The problem is this picture looks as if it took a little bit from each of the above films.

To be sure, "Lock Up" is predictable and utterly preposterous. But Stallone fans who have certain expectations of a particular kind of film from their hero will get exactly what they want.

The story has Stallone, an auto mechanic doing time for a crime that was not his fault — or at least was justifiable — in a prison that's considered by some "a country club." He's down to his last six months and is, as someone else says, "a model prisoner."

But we all know what that means. Just don't get him mad.

Suddenly, in the dead of night, Stallone is awakened in his cell, thrown into cuffs, pushed around and taken to a different prison — a hard-time institution for the worst element in the system.

The warden there is evil Donald Sutherland, in a very arch performance, who ran a previous prison where Stallone was incarcerated. He wants revenge, holding Stallone responsible for his demotion because Stallone was the only prisoner to ever escape.

So he subjects Stallone to numerous humiliations, and even torture, trying to drive him to either escape or commit a violent act in order to extend his sentence.

Naturally, our hero is pushed to the limit but never rebels — until he's pushed too far.

Meanwhile, the predicaments and many of the characters range from stereotypical to downright silly. But Stallone fans won't care.

He's still giving them what they want.

And "Rocky V" is next, they say.

"Lock Up" is rated R for violence and profanity.

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