» Tomorrow’s Joe (2011, Japan)

Tomorrow’s Joe is a reworking, 40+ years down the track, of the boxing manga Ashita no Joe, which had already inspired a 79-episode TV series, two feature films (one anime) and another spin-off. It’s a Rocky-esque rags-to-not-quite-riches underdog story, with prison setting the tone for what is to come.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on March 13th, 2020 at 11:17 am. Updated on March 19th, 2020 at 3:49 pm.

» Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story (1980, USA)

So, the whole shocking story of Alcatraz’s 29-year life as a Federal Penitentiary comes down to just two incidents, does it – the May 1946 failed escape attempt known as the ‘Battle of Alcatraz’, and the June 1962 escape bid that may or may not have been successful? Oh, and a bit of filler in-between about Clarence Carnes and Robert Stroud. Nothing else, it seems, was shocking, or part of the whole Alcatraz story. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on March 7th, 2020 at 8:14 pm. Updated on March 7th, 2020 at 8:14 pm.

» Alcatraz (2018, UK / USA)

This latest Alcatraz film is ‘inspired by real events’. It is low budget and low on authenticity. It is also, sadly, at the low end of the interest scale. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on February 24th, 2020 at 6:49 pm. Updated on February 24th, 2020 at 6:49 pm.

» The Informer (2019, UK)

The Informer has a little more complexity than most action thrillers. But not so much that it explains why IMDb’s précis (“An ex-convict working undercover intentionally gets himself incarcerated again in order to infiltrate the mob at a maximum security prison”) pretty much misses the point entirely. ‘Intentionally gets himself incarcerated’, yes, but he returns to prison extremely reluctantly, and only when two figurative guns are pointed at his head – one by the mob and the other by the FBI. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on February 15th, 2020 at 8:22 pm. Updated on February 15th, 2020 at 8:22 pm.

» Division 19 (2017, UK / USA)

We have seen it before in other films: entrepreneurs making money by putting prisoners on show for public entertainment. There have been fight clubs [Ring of Death (2008), for example, or Undisputed III: Redemption (2010)] staged for the benefit of gambling rings or internet subscribers, execution lotteries [Deathrow Gameshow (1987), Absolute Aggression (1996)], kill-or-be-killed contests for TV audiences [The Condemned (2008), Turkey Shoot (2014)], death races [Death Race (2008)] and many more. But this takes things in a different direction. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on February 1st, 2020 at 10:13 pm. Updated on February 1st, 2020 at 10:13 pm.

» Çakallarla Dans 2: Hastasiyis Dede! / Dance with the Jackals 2 (2012, Turkey)

Good prison comedy is a bit like the perfect crime: trickier than it looks. And it proves much too tricky in this case, although there are so few prison scenes it would be most unfair to label it a prison comedy. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on January 27th, 2020 at 11:13 am. Updated on January 27th, 2020 at 11:20 am.

» Capharnaüm (2018, Lebanon and others)

To be honest, this doesn’t really come close to being a prison movie… but it’s a stunning film, nonetheless, and has a few fascinating prison scenes (shot in Roumieh Prison), and tells the grim backstory of a young boy who is in the juvenile section of that prison, serving a five year sentence for wounding. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on January 19th, 2020 at 8:52 pm. Updated on January 19th, 2020 at 8:52 pm.

» Stars and Roses (1989, Hong Kong)

Q: How many films are there of first world citizens being held in prison in foreign states that have different political systems, different standards of living, or different concepts of what is reasonable treatment of its prisoners? A: Quite a few. And you can add this one to the list. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on December 30th, 2019 at 8:23 pm. Updated on January 19th, 2020 at 9:07 pm.

» Onna keimusho / Women in Prison (1978, Japan)

Two themes run throughout this short movie: the betrayal of women by men, and sleaze. Sleaze, I think, wins. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on December 22nd, 2019 at 11:33 am. Updated on December 22nd, 2019 at 11:33 am.

» Gefangen / Locked Up (2004, Germany)

For years I avoided this movie, aware that there was a hardcore version, Eingelocht, and fearful that this less graphic version would still be an inane, plotless vehicle for gratuitous ‘erotic’ scenes – like so many WIP movies. The good news is that while it boasts shower scenes and a strip search and a rape and a stabbing in the anus and some consensual sex, it’s mostly in context. Sort of. The not-so-good news is that it is pretty much plotless, much of the acting is abysmal, and it is immediately forgettable. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on December 9th, 2019 at 1:06 pm. Updated on December 9th, 2019 at 1:16 pm.