Tapout’s latest title reunites the stars of The Number One Girl, Tony Schiena and Vinnie Jones. This time, the film boasts to be a major improvement over not only that film, but comes close to the level of Schiena’s last Tapout film, Circle of Pain.
Danny Bolan is a Chicago undercover police officer who becomes set up after stopping a major drug deal. Framed for drug trafficking and murder, Danny is sent to Blackwater State Penitentiary. The prison has a reputation for being one of the roughest prisons in the United States. While Warden seems to run the prison, he is only a mule to the real man who runs the prison, notorious gangster Anton Vargas.
Vargas not only runs the prison, but holds an underground fight circuit between prisoners in the basement of the prison. Furthermore, Danny learns that Vargas was the one who set him up as a means to get revenge for busting him and sending him to Blackwater. Even more the notorious, Blackwater is where criminals Danny busted were sent. Having no other choice but to fight under Vargas in the cage, Danny must do what it takes to survive. He finds help on the inside from Irving, a former martial arts teacher who can read weaknesses; and on the outside by Gwen, an Internal Affairs officer who is looking to clear Danny’s name.
Former world karate champion Tony Schiena once again delivers a great performance, showing that he is definitely not only a fighter on screen, but an able fight choreographer as well. Schiena also is known as the founder of D.A.M.O., the Defense Against Multiple Opponents system, and judging from some of his choreography here, he seems to use that method when necessary. As for veteran Vinnie Jones, he once again shows that he can be both sly and evil in his role of lead villain, Anton Vargas. It is truly seen that Vargas has that influence of the almighty dollar to be the one who really runs the prison, despite pleas from the warden at times.
Dave Fennoy, a veteran voice actor in cartoons and video games, does well as Irving. He teaches Danny about respect and using the traditional methods of the Japanese styles of martial arts to help him combat his opponents. Irving admits his guilt as to why he is in prison, but he shows his true colors as one of the good guys. As for Sarah Anne Schultz, she does well as the determined woman who does anything she can to prove Danny’s innocence. See her engage in a brutal fight against Bai Ling during the climatic finale.
As with the previous Tapout titles, a slew of mixed martial arts fighters comprise of the fighters of the film. Playing Axel, Vargas’ champion in the cage is the very intimidating Lance “The Snake” Cartwright. Cartwright looks very scary and in very good shape as Axel. When he fights, he shows no mercy and one could either be scared or laugh at his grimace when he virtually destroys those who come in his way. Forrest Griffin only appears in the opening of the film as a drug dealer busted by Danny, only to die when he falls over a railing 50 feet high in a warehouse. Rashad Evans plays prison bad boy Colton, who goes after Danny for busting his cousin King, played by the monster known as Kimbo Slice. Kimbo only resorts to one fight scene but spends his remaining scenes on an empty promise: killing Danny.
The film’s fight scenes are not too bad for what they have to work with. While this, or any other Tapout title, will never reach the level of Undisputed III: Redemption in terms of its fight choreography, the way the film is edited at times has a little influence from Undisputed III in terms of shooting the film in digital with nicely done slow motion shots when necessary. Tony Schiena choreographed his own fight sequences while Arnold Chon served as fight coordinator. Chon even gets to take on Schiena in a brief fight as one of the criminals Danny sent to Blackwater. Chon and Schiena work well here as they did with Circle of Pain and it is clear that should they have the chance to work together again, it could show major improvement over their first titles, which starred Hector Echavarria.
Locked Down is not that bad of a martial arts action film. While it is definitely inferior to the likes of Undisputed III: Redemption, the film ultimately works well for what it has and Tony Schiena continues to fight the good fight in the name of Tapout. Worth at least a rental.
WFG RATING: B-
Lionsgate Films and Tapout present a Deco Entertainment production in association with Andertainment Group and Buffalo Gal Pictures. Director: Daniel Zirilli. Producers: Daniel Zirilli, Topher Jones, Phyllis Laing, and David E. Ornston. Writer: Bobby Mort; story by D. Glase Lomond and Daniel Zirilli. Cinematography: Samy Inayeh. Editing: Anthony Cava.
Cast: Tony Schiena, Rashad Evans, Vinnie Jones, Dwier Brown, Lance Cartwright, Cheick Kongo, Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson, Sarah Ann Schultz, Bai Ling, Forest Griffin, Curtis Moore, Arnold Chon.