I must give props to one of our fans 최지용 who gave me the inspiration for this Versus article.
We have 2 Sylvester Stallone movies, which actually have rather similar plots: A man is wrongfully imprisoned and suffers at the hands of a sadistic warden.
So let’s take a look at these two actioners and see what the better movie is.
Lock Up (1989)
Plot: Frank Leone (Stallone) is nearing the end of his prison term for a relatively minor crime. Just before he is paroled, however, Warden Drumgoole (Donald Sutherland) takes charge. Drumgoole was assigned to a hell-hole prison after his administration was publicly humiliated by Leone, and has now arrived on the scene to ensure that Leone never sees the light of day.
Lock Up is one of Stallone’s best movies; his character Frank Leone is incredibly sympathetic and we actually feel like we get to know him and feel emotionally attached to his plight. He literally goes through absolute Hell in this movie and the physical and mental torment inflicted on him would push anyone to the edge.
He does at least make a few friends along the way: Dallas (Tom Sizemore), Eclipse (Frank McRae) and First-Base (Larry Romano). They work in the prison garage to pass the time and things look like they just might be OK… Wrong!
Warden Drumgoole doesn’t like to see the inmates getting on so well so he has one of the inmates kill First-Base in the gym.
Sonny Landham plays the evil inmate Chink Weber who is charged with trying to break Frank’s will. When this eventually happens, it’s a very satisfying scene with Frank beating the living crap out of Chink… but not killing him.
Tom Sizemore’s character Dallas is a little annoying at first but just when we start coming round to him we find out that he was promised an early release by Drumgoole, if he betrays Leone. This does not go to plan and the warden says he doesn’t make deals with escaped prisoners and Dallas ends up sacrificing himself for the greater good.
There are various points when watching the movie that you are literally screaming at the screen; Donald Sutherland is the Devil himself as Drumgoole and I’ve rarely hated a villain more. Rather than being over the top though, he is quiet spoken and rarely loses his cool. He gets the guards or inmates to do his dirty work as he is determined to make Frank pay for humiliating him.
Eventually Frank turns the tables on Drumgoole and forcibly gets him to admit that he set Frank up. The finale is incredibly tense with a thoroughly satisfying outcome. The acting overall is excellent and Frank remains one of Sly’s best characters. It’s not exactly action-packed and is more of a prison drama but it’s still a first rate movie.
Escape Plan (2013)
Plot: Ray Breslin is the world’s foremost authority on structural security. After analyzing every high security prison and learning a vast array of survival skills so he can design escape-proof prisons, his skills are put to the test. He’s framed and incarcerated in a master prison he designed himself. He needs to escape and find the person who put him behind bars.
Escape Plan was originally called The Tomb and I still think that was a better title as it created a feeling of foreboding.
Despite the plot being rather similar to Lock Up, Escape Plan has one major factor in its favour: Arnold Schwarzenegger. As expected he totally owns the movie and has all the best lines like “You hit like a vegetarian”. The film has a more fun tone than Lock Up and although Sly and Arnie go through the ringer, it definitely lacks the intensity of the 1989 movie.
Jon Caviezel takes over as the sadistic warden Hobbs who is pretty much the same character as Drumgoole but is still a great “boo-hiss” villain. We also have Vinnie Jones as one of the guards who really enjoys hurting the inmates.
The relationship between Arnold and Sly is what keeps Escape Plan interesting and their punch-up is definitely a highlight of the film.
Ray Breslin isn’t quite as interesting a character as Frank Leone though and we don’t really care that much about him. We like him just fine but there really isn’t much in the way of emotional engagement.
It also lacks the unbearable tension that makes Lock Up so watchable; it has its moments but there’s just something missing from it.
The final 20 minutes of this movie are fantastic though and we finally get to see these two action titans team up to escape from the high security prison. When Arnold turns in slow motion with the Terminator-esque look on his face, action fans breathe a sigh of relief as the greatest action star of all time is back, doing what he does best.
As much as I have a blast with Escape Plan I think I have to go with Lock Up in terms of being a better movie. I’m more emotionally engaged with the characters and it has nail-biting tension from beginning to end. Also the simple fact of the matter is that it came out first so when Escape Plan appeared, it wasn’t really anything we hadn’t seen before. Action-wise Escape Plan is better but in terms of story and characters, it’s Lock Up all the way.