» Blessed Benefit (2016, Jordan / Germany / Netherlands)

Blessed Benefit - Ahmad Thaher as Ahmad Thaher Farraj

Advertised as a comedy-drama, this has all the drama and comedy of a shrug. But it’s delightful. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on May 22nd, 2018 at 8:42 pm. Updated on May 22nd, 2018 at 8:42 pm.

» Jogo de Xadrez / Chess Game (2014, Brazil)

Chess Game - Priscila Fantin as Mina

Chess. It features in so many prison films, and I’m never sure if it hearkens back to a time before TVs were allowed in prisons and prisoners were assiduous chess players, or whether it is just filmmakers’ code - a lazy shorthand way of telling the audience that this person is a master strategist. That said, only a week or so ago I visited a juvenile prison where several young Aboriginal boys were huddled around a chess board, and another giant chess set adorned the yard; maybe it’s making a comeback. In any event, there’s no chess played here, in this film. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on May 14th, 2018 at 8:58 pm. Updated on May 14th, 2018 at 9:08 pm.

» Vyfster: Die Slot / Five Star: The Final (1986, South Africa)

Vyfster: Die Slot - George Ballot as Skollie, on the run

‘Five star’ is an ironic reference to the Pretoria prison in which this film, and before it the mid-’80s, escape-filled, 14-part Vysfter TV mini-series, is set. Vyfster: Die Slot takes up, apparently, from where the mini-series rather abruptly left off. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on April 30th, 2018 at 9:20 pm. Updated on April 30th, 2018 at 9:20 pm.

» Jailbreak (2017, Cambodia)

Jailbreak -

This is the first Cambodian film (let alone prison movie) I’ve seen, so this is unfamiliar territory and ‘jailbreak’ might have a different meaning to a Cambodian audience. The prisoners here riot, are liberated from their cells, kill each other, kill guards, cause mayhem… but don’t break out of the jail, unless I missed something. I’m prepared to accept that something got lost in translation. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on April 25th, 2018 at 11:27 am. Updated on April 25th, 2018 at 11:27 am.

» The Sting II: Perfect Exchange (1993, Hong Kong)

The Sting II - Tony Ka Fai Leung as Chung Chor-Hung and Andy Lau as Mandy Chin

This is not a sequel to the 1973 film The Sting starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and seems an equally unlikely sequel to the 1992 Hong Kong film The Sting (starring Andy Lau, who appears in both apparently unconnected films in very different roles). A comedy-drama, it has, if nothing else, an English title which is much less abstruse than the literal translation of its Cantonese title - reportedly 36 Esteemed Cons: To Steal the Sky and Change the Moon. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on April 18th, 2018 at 10:02 pm. Updated on April 18th, 2018 at 10:02 pm.

» Sarbjit (2016, India)

Sarbjit - Randeep Hooda as Sarbjit Singh Atwal

The 2008 Pakistani movie Ramchand Pakistani told the story of a Pakistani man who strayed across the Indian border chasing after his wilful son, and who was then captured, imprisoned and tortured by Indian authorities. Sarbjit tells the story of a wilfully drunken Indian man who strays across the Pakistani border and is captured, imprisoned and tortured by Pakistani authorities. For 22 years. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on April 11th, 2018 at 9:26 pm. Updated on April 11th, 2018 at 9:26 pm.

» Paddington 2 (2017, UK / Others)

Paddington 2

I thought that I was too old for Michael Bond’s Paddington books to have been around when I was young. I was wrong. I thought, too, that I might be too old (read ‘cantankerous’) to enjoy a movie featuring a proper, English, whispery-voiced, marmalade-loving, animated small bear. Wrong again.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on April 1st, 2018 at 8:49 pm. Updated on April 1st, 2018 at 8:49 pm.

» Seventeen Years (1999, China)

Seventeen Years - Liu Lin as Tao Lan

Seven minutes. Just seven minutes of action inside the prison, and yet it says more about the impact of incarceration than most movies set entirely within prison walls. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on March 20th, 2018 at 7:22 pm. Updated on March 20th, 2018 at 7:22 pm.

» The Merciless (2017, South Korea)

Si-wan Im as undercover cop in prison Jo Hyun-su

There are certain threads that seem to characterise South Korean prison movies; they are invariably well made and contain a blend of gangster drama and dark humour. Well, that’s not true of films like Harmony (2010), of course, but it’s true of the well made films that contain a blend of gangster drama and dark humour, like this one. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on March 12th, 2018 at 4:57 pm. Updated on March 12th, 2018 at 4:57 pm.

» Passion’s Web (2007, Canada)

Passion's Web -

I found this really, really hard to watch… partly because of my strange aversion to watching random (i.e. not all) films about hybristophilia: sexual arousal and pleasure derived from having a sexual partner who is known to havecommitted an outrage or crime, such as rape, murder, or armed robbery.’ To be frank, I don’t even know if this does involve hybristophilia (the hybristophile candidate here does rather enjoy the danger of the workplace, but doesn’t seem to be sexually attracted to more than one outrage committer), but I learned the term through watching this movie and I felt compelled to use it. Frequently. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on March 3rd, 2018 at 4:47 pm. Updated on March 3rd, 2018 at 4:54 pm.