Lockdown (2000, USA)
Lockdown is a prison movie for traditionalists – murders, stabbings, drug use, drug deals, racial tension, rapes, crooked guards… and in the middle of it all, a good, innocent man struggling to survive.
Avery Montgomery (Richard T Jones) is a promising swimmer (of all things; perhaps promising athletes and football players had already been done), who has just won an important race and is about to be offered a college scholarship. Life is good. He leaves his partner (and mother of his young son), Krista (Melissa de Sousa), and heads off to celebrate with his old crack-dealing mate Cashmere (Gabriel Casseus) and Krista’s squarehead brother Dre (De’Aundre Bonds, who not long after this found himself serving a real-life 11 years following a real-life manslaughter conviction).
What they don’t know at first when they head off in their Mustang convertible is that a firearm used in the fatal shooting of a hamburger restaurant drive-in attendant has been disposed of in the back seat; when the cops pull them over and shoot Cash’s attacking pit bull, Cash grabs the weapon and the police shoot him. All three are convicted of the robbery and murder; Avery gets 10 years (a bit light on for the murder, one would think… but how their alibis - being with hundreds of people at the swim meet when the offence occurred - didn’t stand up in court is a bit bewildering).
Despite looking much like a Mouseketeer, Cash takes to jail like a duck to water; he’s soon in the crew of prison heavy Clean Up (Master P) and means business. The younger Dre, on the other hand, is more like a duck at a gastronomes’ convention– within hours he has been raped by his Aryan cellmates (an odd cell placement, one would think) and finds himself desperately trapped as their ‘bitch’. Avery is cast more in the heroic mould and learns quickly from his cellmate Malachi (Clifton Powell); he is soon adept at negotiating that fine line between being violent enough to not be vulnerable, and becoming the very thing you hate. And jeopardising your chance to get out of jail.
While some of Lockdown’s themes are not entirely traditional, most are. Alongside Avery’s fight to remain decent and Dre’s emasculation are Krista’s fight to exonerate them - and the smouldering tension in the relationship between Cash and Avery. Avery refuses to forgive Cash for landing them in jail; Cash’s ambition to be a big player in the jail (and his annoyance at his murder conviction costing him a lucrative drug-dealing career on the outside) don’t endear himself to us, particularly… but he redeems himself in the most dramatic of circumstances. Life may yet again be good, but not for everyone.
The movie was filmed in part at the old New Mexico State Penitentiary in Santa Fe - the site of a terrible riot in February 1980 in which at least 33 inmates died, more than 200 were injured, and a number of guards who were taken hostage were raped and beaten. Perhaps the film is part of the prison’s redemptive journey, too.
Posted on November 26th, 2010 at 9:55 pm. Updated on March 6th, 2016 at 5:06 pm.
#212 in the Top 500