» Fled (1996, USA)

Fled - Stephen Baldwin as Luke Dodge chained to Laurence Fishburne as Charles Piper, and between them

I tried to recall how many films I’d seen where prisoners escape while chained to each other. I think this one made seven. So it’s not a novel concept. Frankly, I’d be more curious to see a film featuring one of those chain gangs where the prisoners are chained together to their bunks at night, and see how they manage after a dodgy stew for dinner, or deal with several enlarged prostates.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on October 3rd, 2015 at 1:31 pm. Updated on October 3rd, 2015 at 1:31 pm.

» Vendetta (2015, USA)

Vendetta - Dean Cain as Mason Danvers and Paul 'The Big Show' Wight as Victor Abbott

I feel for Dean Cain. I’m sure he wants to play serious prison roles, but in Dogboys (1998) he got to play an ex-Marine fighting killer prison dogs, and in New Alcatraz (2001) he had to play a palaeontologist fighting a giant prehistoric prison snake. Here he gets to play an ex-cop fighting a killer prison giant. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on September 28th, 2015 at 9:47 pm. Updated on September 28th, 2015 at 9:49 pm.

» El Presidio (1930, USA)

El Presidio - Gabry Rivas as Joe, Juan de Landa as Butch Smith, and José Crespo as John Morgan

How different can an American Spanish-language film be from its near-identical English-language counterpart, when essentially the only difference is that Spanish-speaking actors are substituted for English ones? Quite a bit, really. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on September 23rd, 2015 at 9:56 pm. Updated on September 23rd, 2015 at 9:56 pm.

» Révolte dans la prison / Big House (1931, France / USA)

Big House - Charles Boyer as John Morgan and Andre Berley as Butch

Some films are remakes of originals. But from the pre-subtitles era, this French-language version of the classic The Big House (1930) is not just a remake, but the same film, shot-for-shot, with French actors substituted for American. Well, not exactly shot-for-shot; in one of the last scenes, John Morgan (Charles Boyer) has his right arm in a sling, while in the American version (and, for that matter, the Spanish-language version, El Presidio), it’s on his left. Mind you, in the very final scene (taken straight from the original US version) Morgan’s sling has dramatically switched sides. I’m not sure which side is preferred in the German version, Menschen hinter Gittern.

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Posted on September 19th, 2015 at 10:07 pm. Updated on September 23rd, 2015 at 10:07 pm.

» Tutta Colpa di Giuda / It’s All Judas’ Fault (2009, Italy)

Tutta Colpa di Giuda - Kasia Smutniak as Irena Mirkovic. And a huge ladder just next to the wall. Hmmm.

Translating as ‘Let’s blame it on Judas’, or simply ‘Blame Judas’, and also shown in the US as ‘Freedom’, this is a surprising musical comedy. Not that it’s a traditional ‘musical comedy’ - it simply has lots of music and is gently comedic – but its real distinctiveness lies in its grappling with issues of religion and salvation and the character of Jesus… hardly traditional prison movie themes. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on September 14th, 2015 at 9:17 pm. Updated on September 14th, 2015 at 9:40 pm.

» On the Job (2013, Philippines)

On the Job - Gerald Anderson as Daniel Benitez and Joel Torre as Mario 'Tatang' Maghari

Two contract killers and two honest cops in pursuit of them. Sounds simple, but this is anything but. The two killers are prisoners, briefly let out of prison and then sequestered away again after each hit. And the two cops find that they are looking for bigger fish to fry. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on August 30th, 2015 at 9:22 am. Updated on August 30th, 2015 at 9:23 am.

» The Wounded (2002, USA)

The Wounded - Sammi Rotibi as Noa cradling Andrew Johnston as Danny

“You haven’t grown up on our streets and dealt with our pain,” sneers one prisoner when the prison counsellor challenges his class about dealing with conflict other than by violence. “You just don’t get it,” says another. “Who really just doesn’t get it?” snaps the counsellor, and storms out of the class. It’s the sort of low budget movie where you brace yourself for the whole wall wobbling when he slams the door on the way out. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on August 28th, 2015 at 10:34 pm. Updated on August 28th, 2015 at 10:34 pm.

» Sleepers (1996, USA)

Sleepers - Michael Tommy Lorenzo and John, made by Nokes to eat luch off the floor

Four unremarkable boys from Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood. It’s the late ’60s. All four are sent to juvenile detention in upstate New York after a prank gone wrong (a hot dog trolley allowed to career down subway steps) nearly kills a man. At the juvenile centre, the Wilkinson Home for Boys, they are repeatedly beaten, raped and tortured by several guards. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on August 22nd, 2015 at 5:27 pm. Updated on August 22nd, 2015 at 5:27 pm.

» We are Monster (2014, UK)

We are Monster - Leeshon Alexander as Robert Stewart (with Shazat Latif as Officer Shah in the background)

The murder of 19-year-old Zahid Mubarek at London’s Feltham Young Offender Institution on 21 March 2000 posed some large, uncomfortable questions. The first-time offender from a Pakistani family was bludgeoned with a table leg wielded by 20-year-old Robert Stewart, a violent racist who had been placed in his cell some six weeks earlier. Whether it was deliberate, malicious act to place the two young men together, and why the prison failed to separate them despite many warning signs and as many as 15 opportunities to do so, became the focus of a belated official inquiry. Mubarek had been serving a 90-day sentence for the theft of £6 worth of razor blades, and had been due to be released just hours after he was attacked. He died in hospital a week later. We are Monster retells that story, largely from the perspective of the disturbed Stewart.

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Posted on August 9th, 2015 at 8:32 pm. Updated on August 9th, 2015 at 8:32 pm.

» Blackbird (2012, Canada)

Blackbird - Connor Jessup as Sean Randall

It might not be perfectly sensible to liken a person unable to escape bullying to a person trapped in prison. The bullied Sean Randall chose the one way he thought he could fight his way out of feeling that trapped. Then he went to prison and was bullied there, too. So he wanted out, desperately, but on being released was subject to restrictions that made him feel he was back in prison. Tricky.

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Posted on August 4th, 2015 at 9:16 pm. Updated on August 4th, 2015 at 9:16 pm.