» 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.

» беспредел / Bespredel (1989, USSR)

Bespredel - Andrei Tashkov as Yuri ('Kalgan') Kolganov

‘Bespredel’ in Russian would seem to mean ‘lawlessness’… but also ‘limitless’ or ‘anything goes’. “What is [bespredel]?” the prison’s top bespredelshchik and string-puller, The Prince, is asked. “[Bespredel] is a trap,” he replies. I hope that helps. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on November 6th, 2017 at 9:13 pm. Updated on November 7th, 2017 at 4:35 pm.

» With Prisoners (2017, Hong Kong)

With Prisoners - Neo Yau Hawk-sau as Leung Yick Fan

Is it a good thing, ultimately, that this whistle-blowing film seems a little tame? That the boot camp abuses suffered by the juvenile offenders in Hong Kong’s Sha Tsui Detention Centre don’t seem to be as shocking as those in many other prison movies (which is not to say that gratuitous elbow strikes, and asking a detainee to clean a toilet with his fingers and then clean his teeth with the same fingers, and assorted other beatings and demeanings are not abusive). It’s a good thing for Hong Kong, isn’t it, if Sha Tsui (which caters for juveniles and young adults from 14 to 25) is not as rotten as some other prisons. Somehow, though, the film seems a little pallid and limp. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on October 20th, 2017 at 5:08 pm. Updated on October 20th, 2017 at 5:08 pm.

» Within the Whirlwind (2009, Germany / Poland / Belgium)

Within the Whirlwind - Emily Watson as Yevgenia Ginzburg

I can be a wee bit mistrustful, I know. As soon as I finished watching this movie, based on the life of Yevgenia (or Eugenia) Ginzburg, I sought out her true life story to see if it matched the film version. There are some differences between the two, it seems, and some of which I get; after all, you want people to watch the movie. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on October 9th, 2017 at 9:12 pm. Updated on October 9th, 2017 at 9:12 pm.

» Pixote (1981, Brazil)

Pixote - Fernando Ramos da Silva as Pixote

Pixote: A Lei do Mais Fraco (’the law of the weakest’) is celebrated for (or rather enjoys a reputation for) its unrelenting grimness. And for good reason. If you looked in the dictionary and it said: grĭm a. harsh, joyless, pixotish - you probably wouldn’t baulk… provided that you didn’t know that Pixote is sometimes translated as PeeWee, which doesn’t sound quite so grim.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on October 5th, 2017 at 8:19 pm. Updated on October 5th, 2017 at 8:19 pm.

» Ozzy (2016, Spain / Canada)

Ozzy - Ozzy is led into the cellblock for the first time

Ozzy isn’t quite the new Toy Story 3 (2010); it lacks much of the cleverness and multi-dimensional appeal of the earlier animated feature. But as another heart-warming movie about discarded anthropomorphic beings longing to be reunited with their families, it happily shares something of the same vibe. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on September 21st, 2017 at 9:56 pm. Updated on September 21st, 2017 at 9:56 pm.

» Hell on Devil’s Island (1957, USA)

Hell on Devil's Island - Rex Ingram as Lulu and Helmut Dantine as Paul Rigaud

Who would have thought that a film set entirely on Devil’s Island would have not all that much to do with prison… and ultimately more to do with tax evasion? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on September 16th, 2017 at 11:00 pm. Updated on September 16th, 2017 at 11:00 pm.

» The Prison (2017, South Korea)

The Prison - Han Suk-Kyu as Jung Ik-ho (front), with (at left) Kim Rae-won as Song Yu-gon and (at right) Jo Jae-yoon as Hong-pyo

There is much that is familiar in The Prison. It owes a good deal to The Guys from Paradise (2000) and On the Job (2013) - both films about prisoners sneaking out of prison to commit major crimes, and then sneaking back in with perfect alibis - yet it somehow manages to be very much its own film. It features a cop and a kingpin. And copious amounts of corruption. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on September 5th, 2017 at 10:18 pm. Updated on September 5th, 2017 at 10:18 pm.

» Turn Him Loose (1929, USA)

Turn Him Loose - Bobby Vernon as Jerry in the can

OK - I admit that this doesn’t really meet too many of my prison movie criteria. The thing is, I was looking for a prison comedy starring an Australian silent actor I’d never heard of - Snub Pollard - and hadn’t realised that the collection in which Turn Him Loose appeared starred Bobby Vernon, and not Snub. Or that the film was not quite 13 minutes long. Or that despite the promise that it shows Vernon “[finding] himself on the wrong side of prison bars while tracking a beautiful underworld gun-moll”, he is never locked up long enough to even lose his boater hat. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on August 26th, 2017 at 9:41 pm. Updated on August 26th, 2017 at 10:06 pm.

» Welcome to Central Jail (2016, India)

Welcome to Central Jail - x as Superintendent y and Dileep as Unnikuttan

This is a saga: a movie long enough to be broken by an interval, and long enough to remain, in essence, a wistful romantic comedy as it shrugs off big slabs of slapstick, political intrigue, corruption and brutality. And, because it is an Indian film, mandatory singing and dancing. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on August 19th, 2017 at 9:40 pm. Updated on August 19th, 2017 at 9:40 pm.