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Lock Up is a 1989 film detailing the last six months of the prison term of inmate Frank Leone (Sylvester Stallone). The movie largely involves the conflict between him and Warden Drumgoole (Donald Sutherland).


The movie begins in what is presumably Frank Leone's auto shop. He is wiping the dust off old pictures; the expression on his face reveals nostalgia and happiness. After this opening image, a girl comes into the shop, asking for "a good mechanic." The two embrace warmly, they clearly have some sort of loving relationship. After this, the couple walks around town, Stallone involves himself in a game of tackle football with some local sixth-graders. Leone and Melissa (Darlanne Fluegel) go their separate ways. Confusingly, Leone returns to a prison, though the movie never explains his change in custody status (only minimum custody level inmates get weekend leave).

There is a sudden interruption that night; a number of guards enter and drag Leone off to another less gentle prison called Gateway Prisonmarker. Here he meets Warden Drumgoole, who explains to him that he will make Leone serve hard time. Leone was the only person to escape from Treadmore, and was the only man to do so on his watch. Recollecting on the event, it is revealed that Leone escaped because old man Galletti, Leone's mentor and friend, was dying, and Leone was refused even one hour to see him. Also, his treatment of the prisoners was also called into question, as Leone went to the press about it, making Leone a media darling and resulting in the warden's punishment: a transfer to the system's worst prison, Gateway. The audience is given an introductory view at the Warden's sadistic habits when he subjects Leone to the delousing chamber until he is forced to breathe in the powerful toxic elements.

Leone meets Dallas (Tom Sizemore), Eclipse (Frank McRae), and First Base (Larry Romano), in that order, and befriends the three of them. With the encouragement and help of Dallas and First, Leone and Eclipse completely refurbish a red Ford Mustang, which Eclipse nicknames "Maybelline". After completing work on the Mustang, Leone and First are talking while the exhausted Dallas and Eclipse rest. First tells Leone that he has never driven before and Leone pushes the Mustang around the shop. First isn't satisfied, and he tells Leone that the experience wouldn't be complete unless he could turn the engine over. Frank reluctantly agrees and First ends up driving the Mustang out of the garage. As punishment, the Warden has Leone and the rest watch as two other inmates (including Chink Weber (Sonny Landham), one of the more brutal inmates in the prison) destroy the car. Frank is thrown into the hole for six weeks. The hole is a small, roach-infested chamber where every hour on the hour, a bright light shines on you and you must state you name and prisoner number to a camera hidden inside. At the end of the agonizing period, Leone is about to get roughed up by a few of the prison guards when Captain Meissner (John Amos) stops them, and he is none too pleased when he discovers that the warden ordered the beating.

Leone gets intimidated by his enemy Chink Weber when he gets out of the hole. Weber makes a belt buckle out of the Ford Mustang symbol from the car he smashed. Weber then steals Leone's food in the mess hall, while showing off his belt buckle. After this period Leone gets reacquainted with his friends, and, thanks to Braden, a guard with a conscience, receives a bundle of letters from his girlfriend that the warden and his cronies deliberately stashed away. The warden, in an attempt to get Leone to do more time, allows Chink and a few other inmates to savagely beat First after the warden's men order First to clean up the gym. They end up killing him when Chink, while his gang holds First down on a weight bench, drops a barbell loaded with weights onto First's neck. When Leone hears about this, his response is to go after Chink. He beats him to a pulp and is about to drop a laden barbell onto Chink in a bit of poetic justice (a crowd of inmates cheering him on) when he restrains himself, realising that killing Chink would give Drumgoole an excuse to keep him in Gateway for life. Immediately following this, an anonymous inmate stabs a shank into Leone's back. He falls down, and the screen fades.

Leone is transferred to a cell in the infirmary. One night a wheelchair-bound stranger makes small talk with Leone, claiming to be an old friend form Treadmore, until he reveals his secret agreement with Drumgoole; The Warden will reduce his jail time, and in exchange, this stranger will rape Melissa. Leone goes berserk and tries to escape with the help of Dallas. Dallas betrays him by leading him into the Warden's hands in exchange for an early release. However, the warden double-crosses Dallas, saying that he doesn't make deals with escaping prisoners, and terrifies Dallas by saying that he's rejoining the population, where, as a snitch, he's doomed to be killed. When Dallas attempts to attack the warden, his men beat him savagely, but he's still alive. The warden then leaves his men to subdue Leone. Leone is enraged when he finds out that the stranger who threatened to rape Melissa earlier was another guard, in a plan by the warden to get Leone more time in Gateway in an attempted escape, a mandatory 10-year sentence for a second escape, adding on from his escape at Treadmore. The guards attempt to shove Leone's face into a cloud of hot steam from an open valve, but Leone, having reached the breaking point, breaks free by sending a guard Wiley's (John Lilla) face into the steam instead and beats most of them up, and in an act of redemption Dallas kills the last tyrant guard, the deadly Manly (Jordan Lund), by electrocuting a pool of the water he and the guard are in, taking his own life as well.

Armed with a knife, Leone captures the Warden in his office, and straps him up to an electric chair that Leone was shown earlier. He activates the generator and, with black adhesive tape, secures his hand to the switch that will turn on the chair. Captain Meissner, Braden and their men then break the door down and point their guns at Leone, who if shot will fall and trip the switch, frying the warden in his own electric chair. The warden begs for his life as Frank prepares to pull the switch. The warden then confesses to his plot to increase Leone's jail time, but Frank pulls the switch anyway, and the warden screams. However, nothing happens as Frank has removed a fuse from the fuse box. Meissner's boys cuff Frank and the warden orders that he be taken to the hole. However, Meissner and Braden will not. They then take the warden into custody for the confession, as Meissner refuses to buy that it was, as the warden put it, a silly confession to save his life. Drumgoole is then taken into custody.

Meissner makes a judicial inquiry into the matter, and Leone does only the jail time first required of him. He leaves the jail to the cheers of his fellow inmates. He meets up with Eclipse one last time, and receives a Cuban cigar which he claims he got from Fidel Castro himself. Frank parts ways with Meissner saying these words:

That provokes the only smile of the tough prison guard. Then Frank exits the gates of Gateway, and embraces Melissa.

The Survivor song "Ever Since The World Began" is played at the end of the film (now with Jimi Jamison on vocals instead of the 1982 original recording with David Bickler).

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