Every now and again an action hero heads to the slammer for a bit of action drama. Eastwood probably had the better idea of escaping from such institutions, but then lunkheads like Van Damme go there on purpose (Death Warrant). Stallone finds the middle ground and is Frank Leone, a convict that tries to escape, and does so successfully. It turns out it was to visit someone in hospital on their death bed. After giving himself up he added several years to his sentence as a result.
And it’s this fact that propels the action to come. Stallone gets transferred to the “worst shithole in the system” headed up by his former warden Donald Sutherland. His intentions are purely malicious and he intends for Leone to suffer having made an ass out of him for his previous heroic escape.
Enter a bunch of inmate and guard personnel who are there either to make our hero’s life hell, or to buddy up with him. Tom Sizemore I have to admit I liked and rooted for in this film. And I was happy when his career as an actor took off – but to be honest, looking back at this role it’s frankly surprising he got to work again (and that work may have been Harley Davidson & the Marlboro Man where he put in an even worse performance). Thank god for the likes of Heat and Saving Private Ryan.
I’m very pleased to say that Sonny Landham pops up as Chink, the tough guy inmate that Stallone goes up against. And he doesn’t disappoint, spewing all manner of vile insults at Stallone: “Hey punk! When’re ya gonna paint your nails and answer to the name ‘bitch’?” Pleasant group of people to be around then! Of course, he’s merely a cog in the wheel of Sutherland’s Drumgoole. Sutherland seems to be relishing the part, and perhaps is underused – only popping up when something evil needs seeing to. He’s also is sporting his most unfortunate hairdo.
He sets the guards to take away anything pleasurable, be it a car the inmates worked on in the shop, or throwing Leone in the hole for a prolonged period, or cutting the visiting time he has with his girlfriend.
It all goes beyond the limit for Leone though when they threaten to harm his missus. This sets him off on an escape which sadly turns out to be yet another trap. Just when you think Stallone is well and truly buggered, he manages to flip things against the sadistic guards and he gets his revenge on the warden. Hurray!
Stuck right in the middle is the straight faced John Amos (Die Hard 2) as the head guard who we don’t know if he is or isn’t a bad guy (turns out he’s just a strict and by the book guard who saves Leone’s ass in the end). He’s also the target of a cute little pun at the very end as Leone walks back to freedom.
I’m not sure quite how I feel about this film. I kind of wince at it’s attempt to be a drama. I cringe at the cheesy moments (Like when the gang fix up the car). But I do feel for stallone’s character anytime a guard or inmate tries to take advantage of him or dish out any pain. Mainly cause sly looks so dopey in the face that you’d wonder what could a guy with a face like that do to hurt anyone’s feelings.
But in the 5-10 minutes of action we get at the end – he delivers it back. And it’s quite beating he gives too. All in all the film probably sits comfortably in the middle of Stallone’s action output.