You won't get no...satisfaction : TLA have released some superb gay films: `Yossi & Jagger', `Latter Days', `Harry & Max', to name but a few. Alas, 'Locked Up' is not one of them.
The central problem that this film was unable to reconcile is whether you can combine an in-depth storyline with hardcore porn. In my view, the reason this is implausible is that that audience expectation for each is entirely different. If you truly want to see a captivating gay love story set in a prison environment, then order the powerful and heart-breaking `Bent' immediately. If you actually want erotica in a prison environment, then buy yourself an R-18. Either way, don't bother with `Locked Up'. It fails as legitimate feature film since there is only a superficial plot and absolutely no depth or character development. It also fails as erotica simply because it is a mainstream release and therefore it's like watching a porn film without the porn: why would you bother? An early reviewer suggested that director Jorg Andreas may have been trying to reconcile this conundrum via `Locked Up', and noted that the characters seemed like extras from a German porn film. Well, there's a good reason for that: `Locked Up' was originally released as hardcore porn - it has simply been edited for mainstream audiences. It's not the first time this has been done (anyone remember another Cazzo film, Bruce LaBruce's `Skin Flick'?) and won't be the last, but it certainly helps explain the lack of plot.
The only reason this film gets 2 stars is because of the rape scene, which is well executed, and the DVD extras. The latter consists of a couple of deleted scenes, a couple of highly amusing outtakes, and a 26 minute long interview with the two principal cast members, Dennis (Marcel Schlutt) and Mike (Mike Sale). These cast interviews are very watchable (more entertaining than the film itself, in fact - particularly when Marcel and Mike trash each other's sexual performance), and are actually very revealing, as they demonstrate that Marcel Schlutt actually has a personality (unlike his character in the film). He has a great deal of charm and magnetism, and it's a shame that his first major `feature film' was `Locked Up' since these qualities were entirely buried; it would be great to see him in some other roles. You can also gain some insight into the talent-challenged Mike Sale, (who at one point compares himself to Julia Roberts - yes, sure; except for the looks, talent and personality, they're identical). The most jaw-dropping moment in `Locked Up' is, ironically, when Mike Sale's character announces that he is American - in the most harmonious Home Counties accent you've ever heard (close you're eyes, I swear you'd think it was Will Young speaking).
I will not trouble to view this film again. The concept certainly seems potentially intriguing, but ultimately it will fail to satisfy whichever of the two purposes for which you would want to watch it.
"I want to stay with you" : Can a movie either be hard-core pornography, mainstream entertainment, or somewhere in between? Perhaps this is what director Jörg Andreas was thinking when he made Locked Up, a German film that is titillatingly explicit, but just doesn't quite go "all the way." Set in an unidentifiable German prison, Locked Up features an absolute bevy of buff, angry, and vulnerable Nordic young men, most of who look as though they have just walked off a German porn film or have wondered in from the local gay leather bar.
Filmed entirely on digital video and on what was obviously a limited budget, and also full of frontal nudity, Locked Up, although not actually "pornographic," has several carefully composed masturbatory shots, that are certainly designed to push the envelope. There's also a rather graphic male rape scene, and lots of heavily worked out muscled guys that are more than willing to "drop their draws" for effect.
Viewers should make a point of watching the extras because they are indeed a revelation: Two of the deleted scenes are brief, but decidedly pornographic - although penetration is never shown. And an extensive interview with the two lead actors, Marcel Schlutt and Mike Sale, confirm that director Jörg Andreas was, indeed, attempting to shoot some kind of quasi soft-core porno film.
The movie opens as newly incarcerated Dennis (Schlutt) is being ordered to strip naked so that the prison guard can give him a full-body and rubber-gloved cavity search - which we actually see - and it is in this scene that we get our first full and unobstructed view of the actors' goods. Dennis has just been incarcerated for credit card fraud, but he's basically a sensitive young man who is absolutely at a loss in this environment of mean, angry muscle men.
One afternoon, while gazing out of his cell window, Dennis spies a hunky, shirtless black man digging a trench. He's immediately captivated and eventually is able to make contact with him. The man's name is Mike (Mike Sale) and he is currently doing fifteen years for murdering his wife. The attraction between them both is instant and it's not long before Dennis is making clandestine trips to Mike's gaol cell. But unknown to them, their sexy assignations are being watched over by the prying eyes of a voyeuristic and kinky security guard.
Can a true relationship survive in prison, where most of the inmates are white, and where racism and homophobia are rife? Will the prison authorities eventually discover them? Mike still has six years to go of his sentence after Dennis is released, but the two of them have fallen in love - they even want to share a cell together - so what are they going to do? There's also a subplot thrown in which involves corrupt guards sell drugs to "kingpin" inmates, who, in turn, have their vulnerable lackeys spread it around.
But the plot isn't really Locked Up's strong point; because all that's really being explored is sex, and more sex, along with a bit of kinky brutality that is thrown in for good measure. The movie is all about one's muscles, and one's nether regions, so consequently we have provocative gym routines, the requisite naked showers, and furtive trysts between cellmates and their security guards. It seems as though, in this prison, absolutely everybody wants to get in on the action!
In Locked Up prison life looks more like life in a three star hotel. Inmates take their dinner in their cells rather than in the mess hall, and Mike is even allowed to keep two caged parakeets, where they are prominently displayed when he shares tin cups of coffee with Marcel. There isn't really much work going on, although there's one scene that shows Marcel hot wiring some electrical plates, but most of the time the inmates seem to be either jumping hoops on the basket ball court or fanatically working out in the fully equipped gym.
But what Locked Up fails to deliver in style in sophistication, and even realism, it certainly delivers in muscle. Schlutt is suitably boyishly hot and he has a great body. It's just a pity that he's not that animated; he spends most of his time either looking either sad or orgasmic, with no range between the two. Mike Sale's also looks great but his performance is awkward, and his line delivery is several notches below the average cue card read. It's obvious that he has little or no experience as an actor. The rest of the cast is made up of big, burly clones, complete with the requisite buzz cuts, and I suspect that most of them were probably recruited from the German porn scene.
Perhaps Locked Up is supposed to be symbolic of every gay man's fantasy? Well, maybe it does; it all depends on where you're coming from. One thing is clear though - the film is badly acted with some of the most appalling dialogue, and as far as prison stories go, not a single cliché is overlooked.
However, regardless of Locked Up's obvious shortcomings, in a strangely voyeuristic oblique way, I still liked the film. Even though I wouldn't go so far as to call it a "guilty pleasure," it was certainly provocative and provided a few good unintentional laughs. Mike Leonard August 05.