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‘Lock Up’ (R)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
August 04, 1989

In "Lock Up," jailbird Sylvester Stallone takes it on the chin, in the chest and other points Boomph! But he can't swing back, boxing fans. If he retaliates, in this behind-bars version of a Sergio Leone Western, then vindictive warden Donald Sutherland will increase his prison sentence and, for one thing, we'll never get home.

Easy, Sly. Easy.

Stallone (whose last name here is Leone) is just a regular guy, the kind of regular guy with the golden tan and muscle definition of a multimillion-dollar box-office star. He just wants to be a car mechanic and marry Adrian -- uh, Melissa (Darlanne Fluegel) -- when his six months are up. By the way, he's in there for beating on the punks who killed his mentor-buddy, so he's all right.

Actually, Sly was in a minimum-security jail, but nasty nemesis Sutherland had him "transferred" to Gateway. It's a long story -- what happened between 'em -- and you know what? You don't want to hear it. Put it down to bad blood.

In fact, put the whole movie down to cartoonery: Scriptwriters Richard Smith, Jeb ("Die Hard," "Leviathan") Stuart and Henry Rosenbaum, as well as megaproducers Lawrence and Charles Gordon (between them, "Commando," "Aliens," "Die Hard," "Predator" and "K-9," among others), are not going for "In the Belly of the Beast" here. This is a drive-in theater battle of wills between the forces of evil (Sutherland, professonal movie-bruiser Sonny "48 HRS." Landham and others we shouldn't give away) and the forces of good (Sly, gentle-giant-for-hire Frank McRae and prison neophyte Larry Romano).

"Welcome to Gateway, Leone," says Sutherland, stepping in through the swirling dry ice (there's a lot of dry ice in this movie). "This is Hell and I'm going to give you the guided tour."

It's more like a guided tour through manliness: a prisoner football game in which you don't go for points so much as ribs, a car-building montage in which -- well, you'd better have a thing for automobiles, pecs-flexing between prisoners, solitary confinement stretches and Stallone's palooka-faith that if he just takes it like a man, a macho man, a masochistic man, an M&M man, he'll come through, he'll get to marry the girl and Sutherland will get his just deserts for saying things like "This is Hell and I'm going to give you the guided tour."

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