24 April 2010 | hitchcockthelegend
That's Virgil Cane man, Lone Ranger ain't got nothing on him.
James Rainwood (Tom Selleck) is a real stand up guy, with a loving wife and in a dream job with a company that just couldn't cope without him. His life is just dandy, That is until two corrupt cops make a mistake and burst into his home believing it to be host to a drug deal. Thinking his hairdryer is a gun, one of the cops shoots Rainwood and it's then that the cops realise they have made a monumental error. So planting drugs around the home they set Rainwood up as a dealer who shot at the cops. Believing justice & honesty will see him OK, Rainwood refuses to cop a plea, and is promptly sentenced to a hell hole prison for six years. Here the affable Rainwood needs to wise up quickly or face a brutal and torrid time in the big house.
Earlier in 1989 we had seen the release of Sly Stallone vehicle Lock Up, a film, that for all its many faults, was a dream come true to the action movie fan who also has a bent for any piece involving incarceration. So up steps Tom Selleck, who after recently showing himself to be a more than effective light entertainer in films such as Three Men and a Baby and Her Alibi, is looking to break out into other, more rounded genres (he also made the quite excellent Quigley Down Under in 1989). For the most part it's a good fit for Selleck and the casting director. The role of Jimmie Rainwood calls for someone charming, elegant and reeking of pure homeliness. That's Selleck without doubt. But the problems for many observers have been, and will be for first time viewers, the transformation of homely Tom into cocksure daddio prison geezer. Thrust into a world of violence and male rape, Rainwood simply must shape up or face a few years of brutality and a stripping of his soul. We know this, and once he starts to be guided by Virgil Cane (F. Murray Abraham adding a touch of class to a stereotypical role), the film for the rest of the prison sections is sign posted for us. And it's hard to swallow, even for someone like me who is a fan of the film!
As for the other elements in the film, the various sub-plots hold few surprises. Rainwood's wife (Laila Robins) is loving and crusading for her man's release, but writer Larry Brothers has her very much by the numbers. As he does for Badja Djola's Internal Affairs investigator, John Fitzgerald. The latter of which is a real shame as Djola holds his scenes very well and is aching to put more meat into the character. Then there is of course our dirty cops played by Richard Young & David Rasche. Young's Danny Scaliese is the calm thinking one, Rasche's Mike Parnell is the aggressive and borderline psychotic one. It's hard to tell if Rasche is playing it for ham or really attempting to layer the madness lurking within? Either way, it's very entertaining, if ultimately miles away from the brilliance that was his Sledge Hammer! TV series. These cops are of course in desperate need of a fall, the question is if the makers here are merely reverting to formula or do they have some tricks up their sleeves? Well it's directed by Peter Yates and the writer is hardly an inspired scribe, so you do the maths. And lets face it, Selleck is no Stallone - a better actor for sure, but when it comes to shanking and shooting who you gonna call? Rambo or Magnum?
I do like the film a lot, but I love the genre it belongs to anyway. And I literally will watch Abraham in anything. So take my 7/10 rating purely with a pinch of salt and call it a 6/10 time filler if you not be singing of the same page as myself.