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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Lock Up - Starring Sylvester Stallone, Donald Sutherland, John Amos and Darlanne Fluegel - Released in 1989

Frank Leone (Sylvester Stallone) is out on parole, reminiscing in a garage he hopes to own one day, his girlfriend Melissa (Darlanne Fluegel) comes in to meet him and they go and play ball with the neighborhood kids. Nearing the end of his sentence at prison, Frank’s behavior is impeccable and he is counting the days before his release. Leone is a football player and a really good mechanic, living in Hoboken, New Jersey. That evening he returns to Norwood Prison, after Melissa gives him a good luck charm - the fellow prisoners seem happy that he’s back. In the middle of the night, he is rudely woken up and forcefully carried off to Gateway Prison - a maximum security prison. Despite his pleas he is not told why he is being transferred.
Prison warden Drumgoole (Donald Sutherland) has old scores to settle with Leone, and it was at his behest that the prisoner was transferred. While he was incarcerated under Drumgoole’s watch at Treadmore Prison, Frank staged a daring escape because he was denied the permission to meet a dying friend. When he was out of prison, Leone was also instrumental in running a smear campaign against the Warden in the Press, he talked of how prisoners were tortured and ill treated by Drumgoole - this had led to Frank’s prison sentence being reduced and the Warden’s transfer to Gateway Prison.
In the prison, Frank meets up with Dallas, Eclipse and First – Base, the four become close friends. Part of his work at prison incorporates mending old cars, and along with the other three, Frank restores to health a Ford Mustang. Eclipse is tempted and tries to escape in the car, even though Leone asks him not to - as a consequence, Drumgoole punishes the three by asking other inmates to destroy the vehicle in front of them and sentences Leone to six weeks solitary confinement. He is not allowed to communicate with the others and cannot even receive letters from Melissa - although one of the guards sneaks them in and delivers the mail after his confinement is over.
Not one to give in, Drumgoole decides to frame Frank and then implicate him. The Warden lets another prisoner Chink Weber (Sonny Landham) along with other fellow prisoners to try and kill First Base, Leone thrashes Chink within an inch of his life, aware that he will walk into Drumgoole’s trap if he kills the man -therefore he spares him. However, Weber’s friend stabs Leone, and whilst he is recuperating, a man, claiming to be a well wisher named Dallas, tells him that Drumgoole has  paid off Chink to rape and murder Melissa. Leone takes the bait and is delivered right into Drumgoole’s hands - the Warden wanted Leone to try and escape so that he arrests him on charges to frame him for a ten year sentence.
Meanwhile, Leone is tortured by the sadistic guards, and almost loses his life - but not before he barges into Drumgoole’s  office, strapping him to an electrocution chair, with his hand on the switch - as the guards threaten to kill him, he gets the Warden to confess the evil plot he had hatched to trap Leone. Hearing the confession, the guards arrest Drumgoole. Leone is released after his jail time and reunites with Melissa.
Released in 1998, the film is directed by John Flynn, Lockup was well received by audiences, if not critics. Stallone, everyone’s favorite underdog played the part of the victim turned hero to perfection.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Over the top - Starring Sylvester Stallone, Robert Loggia, Susan Blakely and Rick Zumwalt - Released in 1987

Released in 1987, the action drama Over the Top stars Sylvester Stallone as Lincoln Hawk, a
trucker. The film was directed by Menahem Golan (The Delta Force), the screenplay was co- written by Stallone. Despite criticism, fans loved the film with its mushy story about a father trying to make amends with his estranged son after the death of the wife.

Lincoln Hawk and Christina Cutler (Susan Blakeley) were married against the wishes of Christina’s father, rich and powerful bully, trucking magnate - Jason Cutler (Robert Loggia). The cold hearted and shrewd old man would rather that his grandson Michael (David Mendenhall) lived with him than Hawk. Lincoln and Cristina are now estranged, thanks to Jason, and now that his wife is ill, she makes an emotional appeal to Hawks to bond with their son, who is away at military school. For the ten years they’ve been apart, Lincoln has juggled making a living long hauling and arm wrestling - less than honorable means which his father-in-law disdains.

On the other hand, Jason has taken advantage of the situation in the couple’s lives - he poisons Michael against his father, and the boy resents Hawk for abandoning his family. Christina is suffering from a heart ailment, and she wants Lincoln to pick up Michael from Military School, where he is graduating from, and drive him from Colorado to California, hoping against hope that her twelve year old son will grow to like his father.

During the trip, Hawk and Michael gradually (the kid somewhat grudgingly!) grow fond of each other, especially after Lincoln saves the child from a kidnapping bid on him; a ploy hatched by Jason to wrestle his grandson away from Lincoln. When the duo return to meet Christina, they are informed that she lost her battle to death, and passed away in surgery. This spurs Michael to feel guilty for not being there by her side when she died - he goes back to his grandfather. Heartbroken, Lincoln makes an attempt to break into Cutler’s mansion and take his son away - this only makes matters worse, and he is jailed. Michael comes to meet his father in prison, saying he understands and forgives him, but thinks his life is with Jason.

Post prison, Hawk competed in the World Arm Wrestling Championship in Las Vegas, his hopes are pinned on a victory which rakes in the moolah - $100000! He also wins a custom made truck and gets to try his hand as an entrepreneur! Everyone knows that Lincoln Hawk is the underdog, he isn’t built like an arm wrestler, and he doesn’t foot the bill! He tries to deal with his financial crunch by selling off his truck, placing a bet and entering the contest.

Back in home, Michael is stunned to find out that his grandfather had concealed the letters Lincoln wrote to him and how Jason is responsible for the separation of his parents. He runs away to Vegas, to meet Hawks. Lincoln is injured in the match, almost at the flag end of tournament, where he has advanced to the final eight. In the interim of the match, he is summoned by Cutler, who offers him $500000 to stay away from Michael, Hawks refuses.

Despite the injury to his arm, he defeats his opponent, overpowering another two, advancing steadily to the final against Bull Hurley (Rick Zumwalt) - an old opponent, yet undefeated. Michael finds his father, and tells him he’s sorry for having misjudged him for all those years, now that he has the support of his son - Hawks is determined to win, and he does.

Even Cutler has grudging respect for his son-in-law, for having stood up against a bully like himself to win his son’s affection. A feel good family film, with the message of love and sacrifice, hard work and honest approach to relationships - a winning formula that Stallone mastered after Rocky!

Over the top - Starring Sylvester Stallone, Robert Loggia, Susan Blakely and Rick Zumwalt - Released in 1987

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Nighthawks - Starring Sylvester Stallone, Billy Dee Williams, Rutger Hauer and Lindsay Wagner - Released in 1981

This 1981 film was directed by Bruce Malmuth, and is about two hardworking cops, who don’t always believe in playing by the rules but are dedicated to law enforcement. Detective Sergeants Deke DeSilva (Sylvester Stallone) and Matthew Fox (Billy Dee Williams) are Men Friday for the LAPD - assault team, sniper team – they’re always in demand!

Across the globe, Heymar Reinhardt, a noted terrorist also known as Wulfgar (Rutger Hauer) carries out the heinous bombing of a departmental store in London. Few days later, DeSilva and Fox carry out a raid on an alleged drug cartel’s kiosk. They have already been compromised, unbeknownst to them, by two members of the LAPD, shedding light on the rot within the system.

Wulfgar’s financer and handler - Mercer, is upset with him because a number of women and children were killed in the attack, and as a result, he withholds the payment to be made to Heymar. This upsets the terrorist, and in a bid to flee police, ends up murdering his contact - Kenna. He travels to Paris, to meet Shakka Holland (Persis Khambatta), who comments that killing Kenna was a bad move - for Wulfgar’s passport was found on his body, infact, Kenna was a willing associate and killing him has served no purpose other than creating problems.

The murder has alienated Wulfgar from his own peers as well, who see him as a traitor. In a desperate bid to flee the authorities and avoid arrest, the terrorist undergoes surgery to alter his appearance - predictably, he murders the surgeon, post the operation. After this he escapes to New York City. Meanwhile, DeSilva and Fox are reassigned to serve in a special task unit - ATAC, an anti terrorist outfit put together by an Interpol officer Peter Hartman (Nigel Davenport). Opposing Hartman’s shoot at sight and shoot to kill policies, DeSilva voices his opposition, stating he is a policeman, not a hired assassin.

Wulfgar, feeling safe in the US, starts planning his next move. He finds a safe house with Pam, a flight attendant. He discloses to her his true identity although withholding his name, ironically, she thinks he’s joking. The terrorist decides to make his presence felt by bombing locations near Wall Street. While he is away, Pam uncovers the cache of weapons in their apartment. Wulfgar murders Pam - her death is the first clue he leaves behind for Hartman and DeSilva.

Unable to identify him after his surgery, police are incapable of arresting Wulfgar, who plans a hostage crisis, and escapes narrowly, but not before he slashes Fox’s face - this infuriates DeSilva who vows to kill him no matter what. Shakka, now in the USA, keeps Wulfgar informed of every move made by the NYPD & US authorities, and tells him that the UN delegation has given a description of him as well. She also tells him his allies back in Europe are still miffed with him, to the extent that they do not wish to hire him again. Upset, the two plan their move to deal with the police and ATAC.

A UN Conference at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is target for the terrorist; Shakka attends the meet in disguise, cornering Hartman and killing him, she then teams with Wulfgar to hijack the UN reps - Wulfgar even kills the French ambassador’s wife in full view of the police chopper and DeSilva. On their way to escape the police and the detectives, Shakka makes a run for it, but is gunned down - Wulfgar escapes once more - and makes his way to Irene’s house (Lindsay Wagner) – DeSilva’s ex wife. As luck would have it, the cop is already there, and he shoots Wulfgar dead.

A tiresome and long winded story, with forgettable performances, the film wasn’t well received by audiences either.

Nighthawks - Starring Sylvester Stallone, Billy Dee Williams, Rutger Hauer and Lindsay Wagner - Released in 1981

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Cobra - Starring Sylvester Stallone, Brigitte Nielsen and Brian Thompson - Released in 1986

Riding high on the success of the Rocky and Rambo series, Stallone cashed in on the image that audiences worldwide identified him with - the tough guy. The film was directed by George Cosmatos (First Blood) and the screen play was written by Sylvester Stallone. It released in 1986, and despite not being welcomed by the critics, it debuted at number one on the US box office.

Stallone plays the role of a cop called Marion Cobretti, known as Cobra, with the LAPD. He is working with the “Zombie Squad”, dealing with hostage situations and high profile crime. When he busts a hostage crisis, killing the gunman, the criminal mentions something about a ‘New Order’- propagated to make the weak, weaker, and the strong, stronger. Their aim is to ensure that only the powerful, rich and strong inherit the earth, and everyone else perishes, whilst they prosper. Cobra comes to face harsh criticism from the media and even the LAPD, who think he is violating the rights of individuals and endangering ethical professional principles.

Unknown to the media and the police department, a series of crimes, though unconnected, have been committed by a supremacist group, working to leave its mark on the community. At the helm of The Order is the Night Slasher (Brian Thompson), who targets a model Ingrid Knudsen (Brigitte Nielsen) - the only witness to a few murders committed by the group.

When she is placed under the protective custody of Cobra and his partner, they face The Order’s ire- confirming Cobra’s hunch that the killings are not the work of one person, but an entire gang! This theory is, however, trashed by his superiors at the LAPD. Afraid that she might be killed, Cobra helps Ingrid relocate to the countryside, where the two fall in love. Unfortunately, their cover is blown, as members of The Order have infiltrated the police force as well - and one of the  groups ‘leaders’ working with the LAPD, reveals their hideout to the Slasher.

Cobra becomes suspicious of the officer, but does not want him to know that he has caught on to what is happening. That night they stay at a motel and The Order moves in at dawn, surrounding the place, a violent fight ensues, but Ingrid and Cobretti manage to escape in a pickup. When the vehicle breaks down, they abandon it, walking on foot through a lemon grove, seeking refuge in an abandoned steel mill.

Marion has eliminated most of The Order’s members, a handful enter the mill, but are killed - only the Night Slasher remains. In the end, the villain is impaled on a giant hook, dying after Cobra burns him. Detective Monte (Andrew Robinson) appreciates the outcome of the case, but harps about the protocols that Cobra should follow in future - having listened to him enough, Marion pushes him out of the way, riding into the sunset with Ingrid.

The film is based on the novel Fair Game, which was later filmed starring Cindy Crawford and William Baldwin. A must see for the all the loyal die hard Stallone fans, lacks appeal for everyone else though!