Starred Up (Mild spoilers)
Cert: 18 / 106 mins / Dir. David Mackenzie
Director David Mackenzie's new, gritty prison drama certainly doesn't pull any of its punches, and manages to be every bit as harrowing and claustrophobic as the trailer suggests. The only real problem I found with it is that I wouldn't work out what the film is trying to say (other than "prison's a bit shit"). The film captures the essence of its timespan perfectly, but come the closing scenes, I didn't feel I'd been on a journey, more just shown a snapshot.
Jack O'Connell and Ben Mendelsohn have a solid chemistry as the father and son who end up sharing a wing (particularly in the scene where young Eric finds out how prison has changed his dad), and they both put in solid turns, but I struggled to find any real character development for either of them. The way in which Rupert Friend's prison-counsellor is written out of the story seems emblematic of the film's general lack of plot direction. By the time you add on the mumbled dialogue and unexplained prison-slang, you could well be wondering if Starred Up isn't just an excuse for an all-male orgy of bad language and mean-spirited violence; because if that's all you want, there are films which will deliver more and with greater glee.
Because I couldn't identify with any of the characters, I didn't find the film to be moving on an emotional level, but it's certainly bloody engaging throughout. Mackenzie gets great value for money from his cast, I'd have just liked to see them be used in a story with more drive. But… (and this is the clincher), it's a solidly assembled film which commands you to pay attention. It's just that afterwards, you may be asking yourself what you've gained…
You won't lose too much by watching it at home.
At some point.
Prison does look a bit shit though, doesn't it?
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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