STUDIO: Lionsgate
MSRP: $19.99
RUNNING TIME: 99 Minutes

  • Commentary with writer/director Daniel Zirilli and actor Tony Schiena
  • Behind the scenes
  • Interviews with MMA fighters Kimbo Slice, Rashad Evans, and Forrest Griffin, and cast and crew
  • Fight choreography on the set of Locked Down
  • TapouT promos
  • Trailer Gallery
  • Widescreen Presentation
  • English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio
  • Spanish 5.1. Dolby Digital Audio
  • Optional English Subtitles

The Pitch

Boyz N The Fight Club Gladiator Redemption. Sponsored by ESPN.

The Humans

Director: Daniel Zirilli
Writers: D. Glase Lomond and Daniel Zirilli
Cast: Vinnie Jones, Tony Schiena, Bai Ling, Sarah Ann Schultz, Dwier Brown, Kimbo Slice, Forrest Griffin, and Rashad Evans.

“Alright, Kuato. If you won’t come out on your own, I’ll just have to come in there and get you!”

The Nutshell

After an undercover investigation goes awry, famed cop Danny (Schiena) gets set up and imprisoned in snowy Blackwater jail. Unfortunately, this means sharing a roof with pretty much every arrest he’s ever made, many of whom are mixed martial arts (MMA) experts. To make matters even worse, Anton Vargas (Jones), a crime boss Danny also has history with, runs the prison. Naturally, he forces Danny to fight his fellow inmates to the death in cage matches in the prison’s basement. As if trying to clear his name, wasn’t hard enough.

The Lowdown

One of the wonderful things about film, as with all art forms, is that one man’s gold is another man’s rubbish. Very often movies that achieve small but dedicated fans in the face of widespread derision cater to a specific set of interests. They restrict their focus to a modest amount of targets and their success or failure depends on how vigorously they attempt to hit these marks. Punisher: War Zone is a positive example of this. Lexi Alexander’s take on Frank Castle has one goal and one goal only: to deliver the ultimate pulpy comic book action flick and it achieves this wish because it pursues it with the same determination Anthony Hopkins seeks a paycheck.

The W. Axl Rose and Son Security Company wasn’t exactly synonymous with professionalism.

With this in mind, my hopes for Locked Down were unrealistically high. Why, you ask? Why NOT get excited by the prospect of a glorified music video featuring real-life brawlers, including human wrecking-ball Kimbo Slice, fighting it out with as much regard for plot as they have for personal safety (hey, we all have our weaknesses.) While the end result isn’t that far off, it never achieves the unapologetic balance of cheese and testosterone necessary to gloss over its many misgivings (like Commando.) Locked Down suffers from a terminal case of The Expendables Syndrome.

From the moment we’re introduced to hero-cop Danny Bolan, the problems start mounting up. Schiena strangles the emotion out of every line he gets with a raspy voice that belongs on Bravo announcing which latter day Steven Seagal opus is coming up after the break. Furthermore, Danny is the most South African sounding American in history. Early on, Danny’s girlfriend, Trina (Katlyn Wong) moans that he’s “a million miles away.” The same can be said for Schiena himself. He’s grasping through every hard-bitten cop performance he’s ever seen, trying to find the toughest persona he can. Schiena might look the part with his fists clenched – the guy’s in undeniably good shape – but every second he isn’t preparing knuckle-sandwiches is a second he’s struggling with the most rudimentary acting concepts. Concepts like NOT ENUNCIATING… EVERY LINE… OF DIALOGUE IN… A RHYTHM THAT… MAKES WILLIAM… SHATNER SEEM NATURALISTIC.

This struggle is not brief, unlike the film’s many battles. It’s a painful 99 minute slog during which Danny spends less time fighting for justice than he does talking about it.

Tony’s “Fart-ouken” may not have been the classiest finishing move, but it was certainly effective.

At times, Schiena actually appears visibly confused about how to speak. Not just speak as in “deliver lines” in an acting context, but speak as in “orally convey thoughts through words” like most people do every day. Instead of choosing one approach and running with it, Schiena mashes every option together, resulting in an awkward, often hilarious performance cocktail as Danny squints and scowls his way to retribution. Perhaps funniest of all, though, is his little lost puppy look. This man, whom we’re asked to believe is some sort of undercover hard-case, looks like his big brother stole the remote from him most of the time. By the time he’s delivering the obligatory impassioned speech to his only friend on the outside, strings swelling, it’s almost enough to make you wonder if the whole thing’s a spoof after all.

“Would ya look at the detail on that manface? Wonder how much I can get for it?”

Bemoaning the film’s convenient plotting and leaps of logic is a thankless task. It’s a film “presented by” TapouT, the mixed martial arts clothing brand that’s quickly earning a reputation for producing generic action vehicles (such as Circle of Pain, also starring Schiena and directed by Daniel Zirilli.) To say that enjoying such films hinges on recognizing those beating each other up is putting it mildly. Searching for depth here is just as futile as it is with most video game adaptations or films based on toy lines. Clearly, Zirilli (Latin Kingz) and his co-writer D. Glase Lomond created the loosest possible base on which to hang their various fights and sex scenes so there’s nothing to be gained spending more time analyzing it than they did thinking about it. Especially, since its stupidity occasionally increases one’s viewing pleasure. A prime example being Danny, the goofiest supercop in movie history, outwitting all of Chicago’s finest by “unraveling” his framing all by himself… a mystery so grand it’s revealed in the trailer. You know you’re in trouble when this man is the brightest penny in your local fountain.

Before long, Danny and Gwen Bower (Schultz) the attractive internal affairs agent helping him, are romantically involved. At this point, the film surrenders whatever energy it may have hinted at, becoming the ultimate police procedural pastiche. To compound this disappointment, Kimbo Slice’s contribution barely constitutes a sub-plot. Here, as in reality, Kimbo reconfigures human form with terrifying ease, making every second of screen time he gets tremendous fun. That Slice provides some of the film’s best moments (and acting!) in the two minutes or so of screen time he DOES get underscores just how botched Zirilli’s film is. Even with some engrossing fight choreography, the film’s ugliness keeps it rooted in the cheap DVD premiere mold.

My mommy always said there were no monsters… no REAL ones, but there are.

If nothing else surmises the poorness of Locked Down, this surely will: Vinnie Jones takes it up a level. The man who ruined Juggernaut, a role that requires running around angrily and smashing things, improves this film. At first, he looks ridiculous staring down from his ivory watchtower like a low rent Oliver Reed from Gladiator. We’re soon glad of Jones’s leathery brand of smugness, though, as he indulges his inner Pacino by swinging his arms in the air and shouting “GOOD TO BE KING, BABY!” He’s a believable crime boss, a kind of Don King/Tyler Durden hybrid profiting off the “accidental” deaths of inmates in prison fights he arranges across America. No villain is complete without henchmen, though, and Dwier Brown (Field of Dreams) does Jones no favours as Kirkman, a prison guard in Vargas’s pocket as much for the thrill as the money. Spitting a few funny insults (“mouldy-locks”, “Blackie Chan”) here and there does not a good performance make. And the less said about Bai Ling’s dominatrix guard Flores the better.

Vinnie Jones isn’t the film’s MVP, however. This dubious award goes to TV veteran Dave Fennoy who breathes a world-weary charm into Danny’s cellmate, Irving, a washed-up martial arts expert. As with every other element in the film, he, of course, does exactly what popular culture tells him to do by taking Danny under his wing. Irving’s a clear riff on the classic mentor role, yet his cynical presence almost makes up for this “original kung fu brother” and Danny falling into their inevitable master and apprentice roles. He also gets the most dramatically engaging material in the whole film, Fennoy’s class wringing some genuine weight out of Irving’s advice to Danny. Had those around him pulled their weight as Fennoy does, the film could have realized its enticingly silly potential. Instead, it’s just another title bound for the B-action scrap heap.

The Package

A handful of short featurettes and interviews offer little. One is a redundant behind the scenes “documentary” with a few of the actors talking about how cold it was filming in Winnipeg between takes. The best of this collection deals with the fight choreography, but that’s not saying a great deal since it goes into no depth at all about the combat techniques utilized. Daniel Zirilli comes off like a skater version of Johnny Depp’s Ed Wood throughout this bonus content, boasting about how quickly he made this film and saying “hardcore” a lot. As is so often the case with movies of this caliber, the disc’s crisp picture and sound quality actually does the film a disservice by highlighting how cheaply it was made and pulled the punches are.

When Assault Courses Fight Back: the season’s unlikeliest ratings smash! 

The commentary track is the best of the disc’s bonus material, providing almost as many unintentional laughs as the film itself. It’s no surprise when Zirilli acknowledges it was shot in less than two weeks, like a Corman movie designed to capitalize on the success of Fight Club over a decade too late (without the zany charm of a Corman movie, of course.) Equally unsurprising is when Schiena forgets the name of his character right at the start of the commentary. Seriously. It’s hard to blame the guy, though. Danny’s so vaguely sketched he might as well be nameless. A few TapouT promos, the trailer for this and some other Lionsgate pictures are also included. How a film this poor warrants such marketing effort is questionable. That Zirilli confidently outlines his plans for a sequel on this disc defies belief. Avoid.

4.0 out of 10

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