The Stabbing

» Purgatory (1988, South Africa)

Purgatory - Tanya Roberts as Carly Arnold on discovering her best friend Melanie hanging

A “combination of commercialism and penal reform” is how prison Warden Bledsoe (Hal Orlandini) describes the “unique experiment” that is his women’s prison’s operating model. It’s not unique, one suspects, and it’s not penal reform, but it is commercial: the renting out of its prettier prisoners at the local bordello. (more…)

Posted on December 15th, 2018 at 9:13 pm. Updated on December 15th, 2018 at 9:20 pm.

» Papillon (2017, USA and others)

Papillon - Rami Malek as Louis Dega and Charlie Hunnam as Henri 'Papillon' Charrière

I’m afraid I wasn’t a big fan of the first filmed version of Henri Charrière’s life story, Papillon (1973), starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. I thought it tedious, and a disappointing retelling of the boisterous, if largely fanciful, written account. And I’m not all that keen to go back and revisit it to see if that judgment was a little harsh, having just watched the remake… which I think is an improvement.

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Posted on December 8th, 2018 at 8:38 pm. Updated on December 8th, 2018 at 8:46 pm.

» Hard Justice (1995, USA)

Hard Justice - Jim Maniaci as Mr Clean holding up David Bradley as Nick Adams, with Alon Stivi as the guard Riggs with his PR24 ('The Ugly Stick')

Back in October 2017 Alex Greenwood wrote to me to see if I could identify a movie from a grainy still he had found on the internet of a bald guy in prison fight scene. Being notoriously poor at such things (and, it turns out, not having seen the movie, or even heard of it), I was unable to assist. But Alex persisted, and persisted… and found it himself. And this is it, fighting bald guy and more.

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Posted on October 6th, 2018 at 5:34 pm. Updated on October 6th, 2018 at 5:34 pm.

» Crown Heights (2017, USA)

Crown Heights - Lakeith Stanfield as Colin Warner

“Please don’t let it be a cell.” So says Colin Warner on waking each day. But for 21 years, it is. And he’s innocent. (more…)

Posted on August 19th, 2018 at 8:37 pm. Updated on August 19th, 2018 at 8:39 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. (more…)

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

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

» 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. (more…)

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

» Death Row (2007, USA)

Death Row - Elias Castillo as The Killer

As far as low budget horror films go, this one by the Quiroz Brothers is not so bad. As far as low budget death row horror films go, it is not about a death row, per se, and the term ‘horror’ doesn’t exactly fit, either. But it is decidedly, indisputably, inescapably low budget. (more…)

Posted on February 18th, 2018 at 12:37 pm. Updated on February 18th, 2018 at 12:41 pm.

» Carpinteros / Woodpeckers (2017, Dominican Republic)

Woodpeckers - Jean Jean as Julian Sosa

The Najayo Prison for men at San Cristóbal, about an hour out of Santo Domingo, is right next door to the Najayo Women’s Center of Correction and Rehabilitation. So close that the men in the old prison, if they can get to a high window on the upper storey, can pass messages to the women next door, and vice versa, by an elaborate, bespoke sign language. ‘Woodpecking’, they call it. “The thing is that when the woodpeckers drill their holes they grasp onto the tree - the same way that the guys climb to the windows and grab onto the rails so they can talk to us,” one of the women says. Or you can choose to make up your own explanation.

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Posted on January 28th, 2018 at 11:18 am. Updated on January 28th, 2018 at 11:18 am.

» 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. (more…)

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