American teenager Mallory (McCart) is having a bad day. Apparently she had to rat on the nastiest little gang of girls in her school (in Southeast Asia), that lead to her trapped on a dock with a bloodied nose. Before considering her options or consequences, she slams the gang leader with a metal pole, subsequently, getting her expelled. And charged with attempted murder.
While her uncle (played by writer/director, Cohn) tries to figure out how to handle the situation, Mallory turns suicidal and eventually ends up in a reform school. The exterior of this new rehabilitation center looks lavish and upscale – obviously a huge façade to the horror that sets in within minutes of her uncle’s departure. Mallory is in a reform school PRISON, forced to sleep in an overcrowded, dirty cell, sentenced to daily hard labor and all while fending off advances from the “school’s” bully.
LOCKED UP is REFORM SCHOOL GIRS meets MILLION DOLLAR BABY with a touch of BROKEDOWN PALACE. Yet, the formula that made those three films enjoyable is missing here. Potentially, Mallory had an interesting hint of a backstory (Why doesn’t she want to call her rich father? What happened to her mother? And what forced her to relocate abroad under her uncle’s guardianship?)
As her uncle, Jared Cohn forcibly tries to display concern and compassion for his troubled niece as if he were being struck with a cattle prod. It is aloof and awkward. McCart carries the scenes with fear in her face, and doubt in her actions. But alas, the standout performance belongs to Kat.
Cellmate and saving grace, Kat (Grey) is tough, abrasive and indifferent towards Mallory. Giving her some basic tools to get through this madness, she eventually takes the young American under her wing with a soft spot. Or, more like a softcore porn spot. The affection she displays leads to an unnecessary lesbian scene on the workout bench.
I am NOT a prude in the least. But I AM conservative when it comes to moving a plot along with each act. Watching two young girls strip and bestow cunnilingus just seemed pointless.
And then of course, there’s the warden…
Maythavee Weiss is an attractive, well groomed and manipulative warden of the prison…uh…school. She rules with an iron fist, much like Bill Boss (Dieter Laser) from The Human Centipede III (but without the constant screaming.) While she remains poised in almost every scene, the warden also remains robotic. Emotionless. Especially when she orders Mallory to fight the school bully in a match to the death. She could have just as easily been ordering a glass of water.
LOCKED UP has disturbing elements of course. Any film that revolves around a foreigner sent to prison, especially at a young age, will spark your “that’s so wrong” meter. Although you want to cheer for Mallory, you also want to know…what the hell is up with this SHAWSHANK-turned-GIRLFIGHT movie?
I actually had flashbacks of STIR CRAZY, when the inmates Wilder and Pryor were forced into a rodeo for a warden payoff. In this case though, the winner earns her freedom.
Girls are brutal and somewhat vicious. Thus is the case in LOCKED UP. The fight scenes ARE harsh and cruel…even well executed. But don’t expect to see something you’ve never seen before.