» Gulag (1985, USA)

Galag - David Keith as Mickey Almon and Malcolm McDowell as 'The Englishman' Kenneth Barrington

I’ve seen a surprising number of people (OK, four, maybe) write in to movie sites asking for the name of the prison movie where an innocent American man escapes a Russian prison in a secret compartment in a truck or a train. I’m nor sure why it’s quite so forgettable or, if it is, why people later want to retrieve its name. This is the film; it’s called Gulag, and it’s a train, not a truck. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on January 22nd, 2018 at 8:45 pm. Updated on January 22nd, 2018 at 8:45 pm.

» Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017, USA)

Brawl in Cell Block 99 - Vince Vaughn as Bradley Thomas and Don Johnson as Warden Tuggs

The copy-cat phenomenon is not unknown in prison; suicides, escapes, riots. And prison movies, too, it seems. We saw it in 2015 with the close releases of Riot and Vendetta, both featuring cops who go into maximum-security jails to avenge the killing of their wives. Recently, we’ve had two Indian movies, Lucknow Central and Qaidi Band (2017), both with innocent prisoners following their pop-stardom dreams in prison bands. And here, hot on the heels of Shot Caller (2017) - released just seven weeks earlier - is another action flick about a man embarking on a mission of extreme prison violence in order to protect his wife and child. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on January 17th, 2018 at 8:48 pm. Updated on January 17th, 2018 at 8:48 pm.

» Qaidi Band (2017, India)

Qaidi Band - Anya Singh as Bindiya ('Bindu') Chaddha

Just how many undiscovered pop stars are there amongst the innocent prisoner population in Indian prisons? Heaps, you might think, if it’s safe to extrapolate from this film and Lucknow Central, which was released just a month after this one. There are plenty of similarities between the two films, but unlike Lucknow, in which a wrongly convicted prisoner who has dreams of being a pop singer takes centre stage, Qaidi Band concentrates on (and, amidst all the singing and the romance, provides some social commentary on) ‘undertrials’ - unconvicted prisoners awaiting trial. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on January 12th, 2018 at 8:30 pm. Updated on January 12th, 2018 at 8:30 pm.

» Lucknow Central (2017, India)

Lucknow Central - Deepak Dobryal as Victor Chattopadhyay, Rajesh Sharma as Purushottam Madan Pandit, Farhan Akhtar as Kishen Mohan Girhotra, Inaamulhaq as Dikkat Ansari and Gippy Grewal as Parminder ('Pali') Singh Gill

I’m not the most ardent fan of modern Bollywood productions; most are too long for my liking (this one weighs in at just shy of 2½ hours) and I generally find the musical interludes grating and intrusive. But at least in Lucknow Central (and Qaidi Band, another just-released Indian film about the formation of a jail band) music is integral to the plot, and (despite what was an apparently poor reception from Indian filmgoers) it’s a far-from-disastrous prison film. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on December 31st, 2017 at 9:07 pm. Updated on January 12th, 2018 at 8:35 pm.

» A Man Called Sledge (1970, Italy / USA)

A Man Called Sledge - James Garner as Luther Sledge and x as Beetle

My memory’s not what it was, but off the top of my head I can’t think of another film where the hero gets himself put in jail to carry out a gold heist. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on December 29th, 2017 at 7:02 pm. Updated on December 29th, 2017 at 7:02 pm.

» Under Lock and Key (1995, USA)

Under Lock and Key - Wendi Westbrook as Danielle Peters with Trisha Berdot as Zelda and Dot Jones as Dot, both of whom are quite irrelevant to the plot

You know when a guard starts frisking a naked woman in the shower room that the technical advisor on prisons took a sick day on the day that scene was filmed. Or it’s that sort of movie.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on December 24th, 2017 at 3:12 pm. Updated on December 24th, 2017 at 3:12 pm.

» Shot Caller (2017, USA)

Shot Caller - Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jacob 'Money' Harlon, joining a riot

Shot Caller might be one of those rare films that I enjoyed in spite of itself. Or myself. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on December 14th, 2017 at 8:53 pm. Updated on December 14th, 2017 at 8:53 pm.

» Despicable Me 3 (2017, USA)

Despicable Me 3 - the minions line up for their jail tattoos

You got me. This is filler. There is really no reason to include this film… Except that I saw the rushes which inferred, I thought, that much of the film was devoted to the minions in prison. It turns out that the prison scenes account for just on three minutes. They manage to pack a fair bit into those three minutes, but it’s three minutes. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on December 1st, 2017 at 8:18 pm. Updated on December 1st, 2017 at 8:18 pm.

» The Chair (2016, USA)

The Chair - Roddy Piper as Joe Murphy and Timothy Muskatell as Richard Sullivan

For starters, I’m not sure why this horror movie is called The Chair. Yes, there is an electric chair, but it doesn’t make an appearance until the last few minutes of the film, and it doesn’t even loom large over the preceding action. It’s a little like calling The Shawshank Redemption ‘The Beach.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on November 25th, 2017 at 9:13 pm. Updated on November 25th, 2017 at 9:13 pm.

» Noem My Skollie / Call Me Thief (2016, South Africa)

Noem My Skollie - David Manuel as Gums and Dann-Jaques Mouton as the older Abraham 'AB' Lonzi

A young kid with a bit of potential but a tough upbringing starts up a criminal gang with three of his mates. Much later, in his late teenage years, he (with another of his gang) is caught red-handed inside a shop they are burgling; he gets two years in prison, plus six cuts with a heavy cane. He survives by reading and writing letters and telling stories. His mate is not so lucky; he is repeatedly raped and becomes a gang leader’s wyfie (woman). After his release the young man’s fortuitous pursuit of a romantic interest narrowly saves him from joining his other three gang members in a criminal exploit that goes horribly wrong. The others nonetheless elect him as the fall guy, but once the trial begins they belatedly, and ruefully, admit that he wasn’t there. They hang. He doesn’t. It’s a story that takes almost 2½ hours to tell. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on November 16th, 2017 at 9:22 pm. Updated on November 16th, 2017 at 9:22 pm.