» 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.

» 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. Read the rest of this entry »

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

» Savage Dog (2017, USA)

Savage Dog - Scott Adkins as Martin Tillman

“Set in Indochina in 1959, a former champion boxer… serving hard time in a brutal labor camp must fight against all odds to avenge a vicious act of violence and for his freedom,” says the blurb on my DVD. Codswallop. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on February 11th, 2018 at 9:59 am. Updated on February 11th, 2018 at 9:59 am.

» Женская тюряга / Women’s Slammer (1991, USSR)

Women's Slammer - Venera Nigmatulina as Madina Galieva

This is the alternative title of the video (on YouTube) which translates literally, it seems, as something closer to ‘Women’s Scum’. Or sometimes, intriguingly, as ‘Women’s Jelly’. The film’s original title, Life is a Woman, doesn’t appear to have ever had much traction. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on February 4th, 2018 at 3:40 pm. Updated on February 4th, 2018 at 3:40 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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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

» 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.