'Lock Up' 4K Ultra HD
Cinelinx goes back to the 1980s with the 4K Ultra HD release of Sylvester Stallone's Lock Up! Here's our review!
An inmate (Sylvester Stallone) nearing his release from prison is transferred to a hellish penitentiary by a vengeful warden (Donald Sutherland). Also stars Sonny Landham and John Amos. Directed by John Flynn.
After three Rambo movies and four Rocky movies (almost all released within a decade), Sylvester Stallone went in a slightly different direction with Lock Up, a 1989 prison movie about a likable underdog who overcomes long odds.
OK, perhaps thematically, Lock Up wasn’t much of a stretch, but Stallone was the most likable and bankable action star of the era, and he was the perfect choice to play Frank Leone, a convict with a good heart who made a mistake and went to prison. With only six months left on his sentence, Leone is transferred unexpectedly to Gateway, the worst federal prison in the system.
Gateway is run by Warden Drumgoole, whose career was derailed when Leone exposed his wrongdoings at another prison, where Leone did time. Drumgoole blames Leone for his current situation, and intends to break him before he walks free. Leone makes friends at the new prison, but he’s also the target of abuse by Drumgoole and his corrupt guards.
If you’re thinking this all sounds a bit contrived, you wouldn’t be wrong. Lock Up throws out every cliche and dated plot device a prison flick could generate. There are some huge lapses in logic, and you’ll see the “plot twists” coming a mile away. When the prison’s antique electric chair is introduced in the first act, you know good and well it’s coming back for the finale.
Stallone’s presence is enough to hold the film together, even when things don’t make much sense. When a guard threatens to harm his girlfriend on the outside, Leone immediately concocts an improbable prison escape. The situation could have been avoided if someone had, I don’t know, made a telephone call to her and warn her. But hey, it’s a 80’s Stallone movie. People didn’t buy tickets to see the movie end with a phone call.
The dialogue is often stilted, and much of the acting from the supporting cast is hammy and over-the-top. The late, great Sonny Landham (Predator) never gave an understated performance in his acting career, and here, his over-the-top villain needed to be more grounded to feel truly threatening. Tom Sizemore has his “overacting” level set to 11 in his first movie role as a fellow inmate.
Surprisingly, Donald Sutherland’s role seems severely underwritten. He does little more than leer at Stallone for most of the film, and doesn’t get the chance to make an impression until the finale. It’s odd to have an actor of Sutherland’s caliber in a film and not give him a meatier role.
The ending is pretty ludicrous, although Sutherland does his best to make it halfway believable. And yet, the movie pays off in the way you hope it would, and it’s still entertaining. Lock Up may not be a realistic depiction of prison life, but it’s an effective underdog drama in signature 80s fashion, with Stallone at the top of his game.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
I had previously watched a high definition transfer of Lock Up prior to viewing the new 4K release. Comparing the two, it’s obvious the new transfer upgrades the image quality. Colors are deeper and contrast is improved, but overall, the image is a mixed bag, from very good to surprisingly soft. For a 30-year-old film, however, the technical presentation is better than you would expect.
I give credit to Lionsgate for including Dolby Vision on the disc, and it seems to properly handle the desaturated settings of the prison and overcast outdoor scenes. The transfer seems to have been through some DNR (digital noise reduction) in order to eliminate grain, but I can’t confirm that. The video quality varies from scene to scene, with some sequences exhibiting the sort of detail and color nuance you would expect from the format.
The film’s early scenes lack detail, but Leone’s arrival at Gateway (and Sutherland’s introduction) look exceptional. Most of the scenes inside the prison are in very low light, but the shadows show depth and a nice separation from grays and blacks.
HDR, for the most part, does well to deepen the color contrast, although in a few scenes, skin tones shift to overly-reddish levels.
The disc sports a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, and it’s surprisingly solid. There is good separation, and the dialogue shows excellent clarity. Bill Conti’s score isn’t overwhelming, but the sound mix elevates it at the proper time.
There aren’t any new bonus features included on the disc. However, there are a number of 1989-era featurettes and promotional pieces included. Because they were produced at the film’s release, they are presented in standard definition video, so the image and sound quality isn’t ideal. However, they do include some great behind-the-scenes footage from the film set, at a working prison. Some included “interviews” are literally just single soundbites in some cases, which is disappointing.
The special features included on the disc are:
“Making Of” featurette. This promotional piece from 1989 is presented in standard definition, and features interview clips from Stallone and the cast and crew. Running Time: 6:34
“Sylvester Stallone” featurette. This 1989 promotional short features an interview with Stallone as he discusses his approach to the role. Running Time: 3:10
“Behind the Scenes” featurette. B-roll footage of the filming of many of the exterior prison scenes are included here. Our favorite part: watching actual inmates (who were used as extras) getting autographs from actor John Amos while they yell out “Good Times!” Running Time: 8:12
Interview with Sylvester Stallone. Clips from a 1989 interview are included here, presented in standard definition. Questions are flashed on screen, followed by a soundbite answer from Stallone. Running Time: 5:04
Interview with Donald Sutherland. In a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” clip, Sutherland answers ONE question about the film. I thought my 4K player was glitching and ending the feature early, but no, it’s just really short. Running Time: 20 seconds
Interview with Sonny Landham. In another very short clip, Landham discusses shooting in the prison. Running Time: 41 seconds
Interview with John Amos. In a REALLY SHORT CLIP, John Amos discusses filming at the prison. Running Time: 17 seconds
Interview with Darlanne Fluegel. The actress also answers ONE QUESTION about her role. Running Time: 41 seconds
Original Trailer. The original theatrical trailer, in 4:3 format and standard definition, is included. Running Time: 2:23
Digital Copy. A code for a digital version of the film, compatible with services including VUDU and FandangoNow, is included. Codes for Lionsgate films are not compatible with Movies Anywhere. Lionsgate also warns on the 4K cover that the code may only redeem an HD version of the film, so we strongly suggest confirming with your preferred digital provider that the code will provide a 4K digital version of the film before redeeming it. The availability of a 4K digital version varies between providers.4KSheet.com is one of the leading websites providing information on 4K digital codes and availability.
Release Date: September 10, 2019
Running Time: 109 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish