Broken Bars (1995, USA)
At the intersection of movies about undercover cops in prison [eg Behind Prison Gates (1939), White Heat (1949), Death Warrant (1990), Club Fed (1990), Half Past Dead (2002)], and action movies starring blokes with ponytails (eg just about anything with Steven Seagal) is this number. It might not be as far-fetched as some of those others, but that doesn’t mean it’s good.
The ponytail belongs to Nick (Benjamin Kobby aka Maccabee), an unconventional cop invited to go undercover in an LA prison to find out who’s behind the rise in heroin out on the streets – and the rise in deaths due to the drugs being cut with poison.
Nick’s in luck. It seems that he’s good at two things: fighting and walking around without his shirt on, and both skills are actively encouraged at the Trabuco Federal Prison, where he masquerades as a largely shirtless armed robber.
Trabuco’s Warden Pitt (Wings Hauser) runs an interesting jail. Apart from amusing himself with bare-knuckle fights between the inmates [à la the equally awful In Hell (2003) a few years later], he arranges prostitutes and strippers for his fighters, runs a comprehensive torture (sensory deprivation and electric shock) program, and relies upon the equal support of both his corrupt staff and the prison’s Mr Big, a white supremacist with links to European terrorism, Jigsaw (Paulo Tocha).
You will not be surprised that Warden Pitt turns out to be the prison’s principal drug supplier and poisoner, or that Nick tracks him down and brings him in. Sorry to spoil the suspense.
Not only does Broken Bars try very hard to incorporate every prison movie cliché, it finds room for gratuitous sex scenes and pro-wrestling-type fights. If only it could have fitted in a car chase and a shootout it would have been perfect… for an audience of 14-year-old boys.
Posted on December 26th, 2010 at 10:44 pm. Updated on December 26th, 2010 at 10:49 pm.
#457 in the Top 500