» La Révolte des Enfants / The Children’s Rebellion (1992, France)

The Children's Rebellion - Loïc Even as The Thinker and Michel Aumont as Uncle

It’s 1847, and juvenile offenders, waifs and strays are being transferred from La Roquette children’s prison in Paris to the Colonie de Grande-Île in Brittany. It’s a “Fatherly Home, not a penal colony,” insists the reform school’s idealistic warden, Monsieur Alexis (André Wilms). And to underscore the homeliness, his deputy (Michel Aumont) is required to be referred to as Uncle and all the other staff are known as Cousins. It all sounds really very jolly. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on October 26th, 2014 at 3:45 pm. Updated on October 27th, 2014 at 7:50 pm.

» Son of a Gun (2014, Australia)

Son of a Gun - Ewan McGregor as Brendan Lynch

Sadly, this is a crime thriller, not a prison movie. It’s also a movie about strategy, but not as much as its laboured chess metaphor would want you to believe. It’s more of an old fashioned shoot ‘em up heist movie, with liberal doses of intrigue and black humour, and a master-apprentice theme. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on October 21st, 2014 at 9:22 pm. Updated on October 21st, 2014 at 9:22 pm.

» Come il vento / Like the Wind (2013, Italy / France)

Like the Wind - Valeria Golino as Armida Miserere

Most prison movies that focus on prison governors or wardens, rather than prisoners - of which Duffy of San Quentin (1954) is perhaps the best example - are little more than indulgent testimonials. Not this one.

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Posted on October 17th, 2014 at 10:12 pm. Updated on October 17th, 2014 at 10:12 pm.

» Way Back Home (2013, South Korea)

Way Back Home - Jeon Do-yeon as Song Jeong-yeon

The South Koreans certainly love a good prison tear-jerker - Miracle in Cell No. 7 (2013), for instance, and Harmony (2010) - both of which also star young children, as does this weepy. But Way Back Home is also very reminiscent of Hell In Tangier (2006) and Left to Die (2012), both of which feature prisoners in third-world prisons overseas, hampered by inept, judgmental and disinterested embassy officials, and eventually released after persistent media campaigns. As this one does. The point of difference from the last two is that in this case the prisoner is guilty. Of stupidity, at the very least.

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Posted on October 14th, 2014 at 9:30 pm. Updated on October 14th, 2014 at 9:30 pm.

» Devil’s Canyon (1953, USA)

Devil's Canyon - Virginia Mayo as Abby Nixon and Dale Robertson as Billy Reynolds

The crossover between westerns and prison movies is not a common one; Hellgate (1952) and There was a Crooked Man… (1970) being the only other examples I can readily bring to mind. Even in this film, once the scene-setting shootout between men in ten-gallon hats is dispensed with very early in the piece, it settles down into a standard prison movie. Well, as standard as you can get where there is one female prisoner in an all-male jail.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on October 5th, 2014 at 5:01 pm. Updated on October 14th, 2014 at 9:48 pm.

» Six - The Mark Unleashed (2004, USA)

Six - The Mark Unleashed - Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Tom Newman

When I saw the publicity for this film refer to “the edge of Armageddon” and a small band of rebel prisoners’ “only true hope of salvation in a condemned world”, I didn’t think it was talking about the literal (i.e. Biblical) Armageddon. Or that ’salvation’ meant ‘Christian salvation’. But that’s exactly what is meant.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on September 28th, 2014 at 2:55 pm. Updated on September 28th, 2014 at 3:02 pm.

» Everyday (2012, UK)

Everyday - Shaun and Robert Kirk as Shaun and Robert Ferguson, Shirley Henderson as Karen and John Simm as Ian Ferguson

Everyday is both a bittersweet story of survival and love and a celebration of the small pleasures of everyday life,” says the blurb on my DVD. If that’s what it’s supposed to be, I want my money back. If it’s a celebration of anything at all (and I’m not too sure that it is), it seems to me that it’s of one woman’s grit and a family’s resilience. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on September 23rd, 2014 at 9:44 pm. Updated on September 23rd, 2014 at 9:44 pm.

» Johnny Holiday (1949, USA)

Johnny Holiday - Allen Martin Jr as Johnny Holiday and William Bendix as Sgt Walker

When you learn that almost all of this film was shot at the Boys’ School of Indiana in Plainfield, and then see the Governor of Indiana, Henry F Schricker, making a guest appearance, playing himself, you know that this is going to be reasonably sympathetic to the reformatory and its correctional approach. Indeed, this is unashamedly a tribute movie - co-written by producer RW Alcorn, himself a grateful graduate of the Boys’ School who went on to make lots of money. And this film. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on September 21st, 2014 at 1:39 pm. Updated on September 21st, 2014 at 1:39 pm.

» The Guys from Paradise (2000, Japan)

The Guys from Paradise - Kôji Kikkawa as Kohei Hayasake

“Here, I don’t find any inconvenience. This is heaven, isn’t it?” says one prisoner of the Filipino jail in which he’s banged up. And it is something of a safe haven for a select few - a place where money can buy anything, where one can carry on one’s illegal activities without too much interference, and where one can hide away from one’s enemies. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on September 18th, 2014 at 9:17 pm. Updated on September 18th, 2014 at 9:17 pm.

» New Alcatraz (2001, USA)

New Alcatraz -

The ‘New Alcatraz’ is a secret supermax prison built “somewhere in Antartic (sic)” and funded by the world’s leaders to contain the world’s worst criminals…. a little like the outer space prison a decade or so later in Lockout (2012). It’s clearly a work in progress; we’re told that when it’s fully operational it will hold 25,000 inmates (so much for the fragile Antarctic ecosystems), but for the time being it is holding just six prisoners and there are just the warden, nine guards, and two engineers to look after them. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on September 16th, 2014 at 10:03 pm. Updated on September 16th, 2014 at 10:03 pm.