Lockdown

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Lockdown is a B movie that sets up, convicts and then sentences echoes of the daddy of all hood (melo)dramas, Boyz N the Hood, for a penitentiary bid that seems like shades of HBO’s notorious series, “Oz.” Besides a couple film festival showings in 2000, Lockdown’s been locked away for more than two years. The reason is evident: At best, its script, acting and direction are an uneven motley ranging from effective to ridiculous. Its release may have to do with a Hollywood crime more interesting than those in the movie.

Like Boyz N the Hood, this is the story of three friends — Avery (Richard T. Jones), Cashmere (Gabriel Casseus) and Dre (De’aundre Bonds) — and their trials. Avery is a competitive swimmer aspiring to an athletic college scholarship. That’s the story’s freshest turn. But like Boyz’s favorite son, Tre, he’s in love with a good girl, Krista (Melissa De Sousa); he’s not like his friend Cashmere who’s just taggin’ the ass of some ho (graphically shown in one scene). Like Ice Cube’s character in Boyz, Cashmere’s the bad boy (Casseus even looks like the bastard child of Ice Cube and fellow rapper-actor Busta Rhymes). He’s a young man who would be crack kingpin. Dre, Krista’s brother, just seems to tag along, looking up to both.

All three are implicated, tried and convicted for a bungled robbery that ends up in the kind of senseless murder that’s become a staple of the 11 o’clock news. Of course, they’re innocent. They get set up — as much by screenwriter Preston A. Whitmore II’s plot as by their on-screen enemy.

Then Lockdown’s boyz n the hood do time in “Oz”-lite. Avery attracts father figures who guide and save him in a human zoo of shank-wielding violence and graphic, savage sodomy. Redemption ultimately comes at the cost of blood and death.

Higher quality features have gone straight to video. Why theatrically release Lockdown now? The answer may have to do with Antwone Fisher and De’aundre Bonds’ 11-year sentence for manslaughter.

In an interview featured on Lockdown’s official Web site (www. lockdownthemovie.com), Bonds says that Fisher director and star, Denzel Washington, promised him the role of Fisher’s best friend. When he went to share the news with his aunt, her boyfriend allegedly assaulted Bonds and Bonds fatally stabbed him. In an ironic instance of life imitating art, Bonds was convicted on a manslaughter charge and is currently serving his sentence. Is Lockdown’s theatrical release exploiting Antwone Fisher’s success and Bonds’ failure? If so, that’s its greatest crime.

James Keith La Croix writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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