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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Lockdown (2000)

"Itís not supposed to be easy. Itís prison.Ē
- Charles (Bill Nunn)

Review By: Kevin Clemons  
Published: April 27, 2003

Stars: Richard T. Jones, Gabriel Casseus, De' Aundre Bonds, Melissa DeSousa
Other Stars: Bill Nunn, Clifton Powell, Master P
Director: John Leussenhop

Manufacturer: DVDl
MPAA Rating: R for Brutal Violence including sexual assaults, a strong scene of sexuality, percasive language, and graphic drug use
Run Time: 01h:44m:59s
Release Date: April 29, 2003
UPC: 043396005600
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- A-B+B- D+

DVD Review

Avery (Jones) is a smart and successful swimmer who is enjoying the simple aspects of life. He has a loving girlfriend (DeSousa) as well as a young son named Jordan. Avery's life is headed in the right direction after dropping out of college in an effort to support his family. When a recruiter comes to Avery's latest swim meet, Avery learns he is on his way to the top with his pick of any school he wishes to attend. Then, his life suddenly changes in an instant.

His friends Cashmere (Casseus) and Dre (Bonds) take Avery out to celebrate, only to be arrested when the car they are driving fits the description of a vehicle involved in a brutal murder earlier in the day. To make matters worse, the murder weapon is mysteriously in the back seat, all but sealing their fate. As expected, the three are sent to a maximum security prison for life. Once inside, each goes a different path with only Avery's leading to a better place. Cashmere falls in with Clean Up (Master P) and his powerful gang. Dre is stuck with an Aryan inmate who repeatedly abuses Dre both mentally and physically. Avery, though, finds help in Malachi (Powell), an older inmate who will slowly help Avery find redemption.

Directed by John Luessenhop Lockdown is admirable in the way it portrays life inside prison, choosing instead to focus on the harshness rather than the camaraderie that numerous other cellblock films strive for and obtain. Luessenhop and writer Preston Whitmore (who based the script on a real life story of a falsely imprisoned friend) offer up compelling characters and truthful moments that make the viewer look past some glaring faults. The largest of these is the unnecessary inclusion of a subplot involving the DeSousa character attempting to free her boyfriend. These scenes take away from the grittiness of the central story and feel isolated when set against the remainder of the film.

At its best, Lockdown works as a jaded look at the penal system with an unbiased eye. The scenes featuring abuse and rape of inmates, notably Dre, are gritty and very difficult to watch, but one has to admire the filmmakers for respecting the truthfulness of the situation.

The cast is uniformly superb, with the trio of lead actors turning in stunning performances. Casseus and Bonds stand out, showing true emotional backbone, given their different environments in the prison. Jones is charismatic enough to make the viewer feel for him, while Bill Nunn and Clifton Powell offer strong mentor-like support.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in an anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer, Lockdown seems to rise above its low budget roots with a splendid transfer. As one might expect, the film shies away from bright colors in favor of dark blues and harsh grays. These darker colors show good depth with very little grain evident. Sharpness and detail are each done nicely with a very film-like look.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: A Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is provided and it sounds very average. Dialogue is the star of this mix as it sounds rich and is without any distortion in the center channel. The surround speakers are used sparingly but when they do come alive they provide nice support for the mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Chinese, French, Korean, Thai, Spanish, Portuguese with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Bad Boys II, Half Past Dead
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: Trailers for Lockdown, Bad Boys II (looks pretty great), and Half Past Dead are provided.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Not for the weak at heart, this film is enough to make anyone stay clear from a life of crime altogether. The transfer is far from perfect but, given the low budget, it is to be expected. Recommended for its brutal, unflinching, and eye-opening look at the American penal system.


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