» Fortress 2: Re-Entry (2000, USA)

Fortress 2 - Christopher Lambert as John Brennick with a touch of sunburn while in 'The Hole'

Who could forget the original Fortress (1992) and its magnificent intestinator? There’s nothing in this sequel to match it, sadly, although each prisoner does receive a new behaviour-modifying neural implant that also expropriates the optic nerve and allows ZED, the prison’s all-knowing computer, to relay each prisoner’s vision onto staff-monitored screens. Which is sort of handy. (more…)

Posted on December 27th, 2016 at 7:31 pm. Updated on January 1st, 2017 at 9:01 am.

» The Last Castle (2001, USA)

The Last Castle - Robert Redford as General Eugene Irwin and Paul Calderón as Dellwo

The Last Castle has many of the hallmarks of a Shawshank; a classic battle of strategy between principled prisoner and corrupt warden, an imposing prison setting (the magnificent, fortress-like Tennessee State Penitentiary), and similar production values. But it doesn’t quite have the same impact… maybe because its message is a little muddier. (more…)

Posted on July 21st, 2016 at 9:14 pm. Updated on January 1st, 2017 at 9:02 am.

» Under Jakob’s Ladder (2011, USA)

Under Jakob's Ladder - Jeff Stewart as Jakob Seel

It might have been because I kept switching between election updates and the football scores while watching this, but it didn’t have the impact on me that I presume its makers wanted. Or maybe – despite me knowing virtually nothing about the pre-war Russian penal system – it was because it seemed more like a cheap re-creation of a village pokey than the Siberian gulag I had somehow preconceived.


Posted on July 9th, 2016 at 5:52 pm. Updated on January 1st, 2017 at 9:02 am.

» Born American (1986, USA / Finland)

Born American - from left, Steve Durham as Mitch, David Coburn as KC, Mike Norris as Savoy Brown, and a blonde extra

There are so many genres that Born American tries to cover, it’s exhausting. There’s the road-trip-that-goes-horribly-wrong movie, the patriotic, xenophobic Cold War movie, the prison fight club movie, and the old fashioned blow-up-the-bad-guys action movie… with a little romance (and some counterbalancing cynicism about world powers’ espionage agencies) thrown in for good measure. It finishes as a bit of a messy disaster on all counts. (more…)

Posted on March 1st, 2015 at 4:50 pm. Updated on January 1st, 2017 at 9:03 am.

» Son of a Gun (2014, Australia)

Son of a Gun - Ewan McGregor as Brendan Lynch

Sadly, this is a crime thriller, not a prison movie. It’s also a movie about strategy, but not as much as its laboured chess metaphor would want you to believe. It’s more of an old fashioned shoot ’em up heist movie, with liberal doses of intrigue and black humour, and a master-apprentice theme. (more…)

Posted on October 21st, 2014 at 9:22 pm. Updated on January 1st, 2017 at 9:03 am.

» Impact (1963, UK)

Impact - Conrad Phillips as Jack Moir and John Rees as Charlie Wright

“Crime reporter Jack Moir is framed by crooked nightclub owner, ‘The Duke’. In prison, Moir plans his revenge…” is what the internet synopses say. And that’s all true. Just don’t expect a lot of prison plotting; the prison scenes account for just 5½ of the film’s 59 minutes. (more…)

Posted on May 31st, 2014 at 9:04 pm. Updated on January 1st, 2017 at 9:04 am.

» El Juego de Arcibel / Arcibel’s Game (2003, Argentina)

Arcibel's Game - Dario Grandinetti as Arcibel Alegria (left) and Juan diego as Palacios (right), assist an distressed El Rengo (Juan Echanove) following Che Guevarra's death

In some ways this is the antithesis of an action movie; an accidental political prisoner becomes a celebrated revolutionary leader, also by accident, after he invents a board game in prison. If there is such a thing, it is quite possibly an inaction movie, and all the better for it. (more…)

Posted on November 2nd, 2012 at 9:20 pm. Updated on January 1st, 2017 at 9:04 am.