"Lock Up (1989)"
Music By Bill Conti
Varese Sarabande Vintage
18 Tracks/Disc Time: 53:08
After the success of "Rambo", Actor/Writer/Director Sylvester Stallone was pretty much the 80's action icon along with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris and eventually, Bruce Willis. Pretty much given the opportunity to pick and choose his projects, Stallone chose the gritty thriller, "Lock Up" which would be helmed by gritty film director John Flynn, whose "Rolling Thunder" is still one of the most engaging action-thrillers of the 1970's and would go on to direct one of Steven Seagal's entertaining thrillers in "Out For Justice". The film features Stallone as Frank Leone, a good hearted mechanic and a model inmate finishing out his sentence in a New Jersey prison where his girlfriend (Darlanne Fluegel) eagerly awaits their reunion. However, Leone is given a rude awakening when he is abruptly transferred to Gateway, a vicious prison in the middle of the night. The prison is being run by a familiar face in Leone's past in Warden Henry Drumgoole (the excellent Donald Sutherland) who was the assistant warden when Leone escaped from his prison just to see his ailing mentor. In an act of revenge, Drumgoole pulls out all the stops to have Leone serve the hard time that he feels that he deserves which includes hiring a gang of goons led by Chink (the late Sonny Landum, "Predator") and putting Leone through some serious and endless torture. Soon Frank has to do the one thing that Drumgoole expects him to do, but he one ups him to reveal the truth behind his transfer and end the Warden's reign forever. The film was a modest hit and now has become a cult favorite and in particular for one unforgettable sequence involving a football game which has a Stallone against the world like mentality which is very memorable.
Another vital element that was particularly important to this film is the music of Oscar winning Composer Bill Conti, who pretty much had scored most of films that had starred Stallone after their monumental success with "Rocky" in 1976. With films such as "Rocky's 2 & 3", "Paradise Alley", "F.I.S.T.", and future installments of "Rocky 5" and "Rocky Balboa" and the comedy, "Avenging Angelo", Conti had figured a great part in the success of his career as Stallone was Conti's. "Lock Up" features Conti at his grittiest with a score that is very dark, but there are quiet moments of tenderness and longing that is the central theme of the score and yet, he also keeps an action-suspense tone to it as well.
"Main Title" starts off the score to a very optimistic start with a lovely piano solo the plays like a concerto that guided through by a synthesizer rendering of the theme for Frank which also reveals the warmth and longing of Stallone's character. "Welcome To Getaway" is a harsh sounding track full of tension created by shreking strings, grating and rhythmic synthesizers acting as propulsive percussion backed with harsh brass in which Conti takes the optimistic parts of the Main Title theme into a much darker arena. This would figure prominently in later tracks such as "He Can Take More", "You Won't Break Me", and "Name And Number", the last track featuring some really harsh synthesizers that make the scene in the film work perfectly. "First Down!" is the albums' masterpiece track featuring some exceptional scoring which Conti revisits a little bit of his inner "Rocky" fight music as well as his fun scores to "Victory" and "Masters Of The Universe" with this gem. Brass, militaristic percussion and exceptional string work dominate this track that is very memorable and is the perfectly scored in the film itself. The last half of the film is purely action and suspense as Conti underscores Frank's attempt to escape again mixing all of the harsher material with his theme in a desperate variation featuring rhythmic keyboards, electronics and aggressive string work that at a really fast pace. The tracks "Payback Time", "Steam Bath", "Breakout" and "Hold Your Fire" play like a symphony of suspense in unison and in particular "Hold Your Fire", which is another standout track with sweeping aggressive and airy strings while bubbling electronic clusters just keep and building up the tension. "Your Incredible Smile" ends the film and the album on a happy note with a reprise of Frank's theme on keyboards signifying of our hero's long road to being a free man.
Varese Sarabande's long awaited reissue of the score which sold out ten years ago instantly overnight when Intrada Records issued it as part of their Special Collection series, is a must have for fans of the composer and the film. The score is every effective in what it is supposed to do and that is provide an atmosphere of darkness, grit and glimmer of hope at the end. Most will enjoy the score on those merits and others will be turned off by the synthesizer swooshes and clanging that is featured throughout which to me is the least effective part when Conti tries to integrate the two together. The score absolutely works better when the orchestra (as large as it is) is allowed to breathe and play with gusto. The album is a worthwhile listen and there is some stupendous material to be had here and is should be a great reason to own it for those who don't. Lock Up gets a marginal thumbs up for the stand out material, but the rest is a mixed bag of atmosphere and tension which is effective within the film not off it.