Lockdown! The Perfect Time to Watch Some Schlocky Prison Films

God knows lockdown in the UK has given people time enough (often to the wee small hours) to re-watch some of the crappier DVDS in their collection or on Netflix/Amazon etc.


Robert D’Zar in Tango & Cash (1989)


The prison movie genre has a storied history, which includes some really strong titles, including The Birdman of Alcatraz, Cool Hand Luke, The Shawshank Redemption, Escape from Alcatraz, Papillion, Brubaker, Hunger and others.


Back in 1989 the genre experienced a mini-revival with two big budget pictures – Sly Stallone’s Lock Up and An Innocent Man, starring Tom Selleck.



An Innocent Man trailer


Actually three if you count Stallone again in Tango & Cash, where the mismatched cop duo of slick Ray Tango (Sly trying to be sophisticated) and Gabe Cash (Kurt Russell) are banged up for a decent chunk of the movie.


Lock Up - Trailer - (1989) - HQ


The protagonists of all three films are either mistakenly incarcerated (big surprise) or persecuted whilst paying their debt to society, forced to deal with psychopathic fellow inmates and sadistic wardens.


Tango & Cash, Trailer (1989)


Aside from T&C, where their prison stint is played mainly for laughs, Lock Up and An Innocent Man trade in the stereotype of vaguely stoic suffering pushed to the limit, which makes the lead roles a trifle dull, but gives the supporting cast and character actors a chance to shine.


Hence the especially ripe, moustache-twirling turn by the great Donald Sutherland as Warden Drumgoole in Lock Up and a rather less OTT performance by F. Murray Abraham as wise Yoda-style lag Virgil Cane in An Innocent Man.


Other familiar faces populate the two pictures, including Tom Sizemore, Jon Amos in Lock Up, MC Gainey and Tobin Bell in the Selleck flick.


Which also features the very underrated David Rasche (Sledge Hammer!, Succession) as coke-sniffing corrupt detective Mike Parnell.



But…remember, if you’re ever doing time in stir/chokey – always ‘Hold Your Mud’*.

*don’t snitch


Avatar photo

Stephen Arnell

Culture Comment Content Provider. Portrait courtesy of artist Darren Coffield. 'Non satis me tempo'