Film / Lock Up

Lock Up is a 1989 film starring Sylvester Stallone and Donald Sutherland.

Frank Leone (Stallone) is a convicted criminal who is nearing the end of his sentence for model behavior. One day he is sent to the maximum security Gateway Prison on trumped-up grounds by the vindictive, brutal Warden Drumgoole (Sutherland). Drumgoole still has a bone to pick with Leone for humiliating him by escaping one of his prisons years ago, and wants nothing more than to see Leone rot in prison for the rest of his life. As Leone tries to sit out the remainder of his sentence, Drumgoole resorts to increasingly evil means to make sure Leone's stay will be a living hell.

This film provides examples of:

  • Award Bait Song: Ever Since The World Began by the late Survivor vocalist Jimi Jamison.
  • Dead Man Switch: In the climax, Frank takes Drumgoole hostage and throws him into the reactivated electric chair in the prison's defunct death row section. Then he ties his hands to the switch, so he can make his speech about all the bad things the Warden did to the guards while they're unable to shoot him. Frank was bluffing. The chair was never active.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Prisoner escapes in his last two weeks at Treadmore to visit his dying friend and exposes your misconduct? And he gets another five years? If you're Warden Drumgoole, that's obviously not enough. The answer is to get the prisoner randomly transferred to a Hellhole Prison, repeatedly attacked, stabbed, hassled, tortured, lured into a trap to extend his sentence for the rest of his life, and have his friends murdered to provoke him into lashing out.
  • Foreshadowing: Frank, after bemusedly listening to Dallas' escape plan, points out all the things that are wrong with it, leaving a frustrated Dallas to dispose of the copy of the prison blueprints that he had swiped down the cistern pipe leading to the prison's sewer works...Frank gives said pipe a long, meaningful look before leaving the area. Subverted when Frank doesn't even bother escaping the prison at all, but leaves hints that that's how he went out.
  • Hellhole Prison: Gateway Prison. It already had a reputation as this before Drumgoole came along.
  • I Lied: Drumgoole promises one of Frank's friends a reduced sentence if he'll betray him at the right moment. When he does, he declares that they "don't make deals with prisoners", and has him thrown back into genpop.
  • Improvised Weapon: To kill a prisoner, a gang uses a stacked barbell to break his neck by dropping it on him.
  • I Will Show You X: In the climax:
    Leone (to Drumgoole): You're gonna give me a guided tour through hell? I'll SHOW you hell!
    And later:
    Drumgoole: You're scum, Frank.
    Leone: Shut up! I'll show you scum.
  • Man Bites Man: During Frank's fight in the yard with Chink Weber (the thuggish convict played by Sonny Landham), he bites the man's arm when he nearly drives his shiv through Frank's neck.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Being made the Warden of Gateway Prison is this for Drumgoole. He absolutely hates the prison for its bad reputation.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The Captain of the Guard is a much more reasonable figure than the sadistic Warden. He'll follow his orders and treat the prisoners as roughly as he thinks is necessary, but he does not believe in punishing someone beyond their sentence. When Frank ultimately takes Drumgoole hostage and exposes his corruption, he orders his men to arrest the Warden and makes sure Frank will be able to sit out the rest of his sentence in peace.
  • Revenge Myopia: Drumgoole wants to destroy Frank's life for humiliating him at Treadmore and getting the Warden transferred to the hellish Gateway Prison. When Frank points out that he partly did it to expose the Warden's corruption and brutality at Treadmore, Drumgoole dismisses it.
  • Sinister Shiv: The gang that is trying to hassle Frank can usually be seen with these. After defeating their gang leader in a fight, Leone is suddenly stabbed by another prisoner and spends several weeks in the infirmary.
  • Sword over Head: A variation is used, since swords aren't exactly common in prison. After Frank wins a fight against a gang leader who made it personal by killing First Base, Frank places him on a bench press and holds the weights over his head, ready to drop it. Despite much prompting from the prisoners and even a distant Warden who's looking on from his office window, Frank realizes that killing the man will put him away for life and relents. He gets shivved for his troubles.
  • Tautological Templar: The Warden is determined to destroy Frank's life. He'll go to any means to assure this, because he seems to think that as the Warden, he's always the hero and as the prisoner, Frank is always the bad guy. This goes to the point of justifying murder of Frank's friends as another means to provoke Frank into getting himself "the punishment he deserves".
  • Tricked Into Escaping: Frank is told that his girlfriend is in danger, and he accepts help in escaping prison so that he can save her. However, it's all a trick by the Warden Drumgoole, who has a grudge against Frank and knows that the escape attempt will cause Frank's prison term (which is nearly up) to be extended.
  • Wardens Are Evil: Warden Drumgoole (played with gleeful smugness by Donald Sutherland) has a grudge against Stallone's character Frank Leone for getting him demoted by successfully escaping a previous prison he was responsible for (because he refused Leone the chance to see his dying friend, even with armed escort). Frank just wants to sit out his remaining time and reunite with his wife after his release, but the warden would like nothing better than to see him in prison for life or on the electric chair. He tries to provoke Frank throughout the entire film so that he'll lash out and turn himself into a lifer, even murdering Frank's best friend and pulling a Batman Gambit on Leone to make him try to escape, involving threatening his wife with rape.