The Mess Hall

» The Mustang (2019, USA / France / Belgium)

I’m not really interested in the nags, despite my great-grandfather having been a highly respected horse-breaker, and like Dr Paul Gendreau I’m a little sceptical of the direct impact that animal programs have on recidivism, no matter what amazing things they can do for the prison environment. But this evocative, beautifully shot film brings two old-fashioned occupations – horse-breaker and criminal – together in splendid fashion, and no-one really gives a toss whether there are fewer criminals in the world because some have learned to break horses. (more…)

Posted on September 3rd, 2019 at 9:31 pm. Updated on September 3rd, 2019 at 9:31 pm.

» P Storm (2019, Hong Kong / China)

The fourth movie in the Storm franchise [following on from Z Storm (2014), S Storm (2016), L Storm (2018), from which I have been successfully sheltered in each case, and not counting the yet-to-be-released G Storm], this again features William Luk Chi Lim (Louis Koo) as a super-committed investigator from Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).  (more…)

Posted on August 27th, 2019 at 9:57 pm. Updated on August 27th, 2019 at 10:10 pm.

» Locked Up (2017, USA)

With a bit more imagination this could be a much better film… and still be pretty awful. (more…)

Posted on July 14th, 2019 at 1:11 pm. Updated on July 14th, 2019 at 1:15 pm.

» El patio de mi cárcel / My Prison Yard (2008, Spain)

My Prison Yard - Violeta Pérez as Rosa and Verónica Echegui as Isa

I watched this film with, I’m sorry to say, less than perfect comprehension… after the failure of several pathetic attempts to find good English subtitles. I was a little bemused to subsequently find a reference in one review to a duck in the prison, which I thought I’d missed, only to learn that it resulted from the translation of the mistranscribed ‘El pato de mi cárcel’. Sadly, outside of English I am always finding ducks or missing them (whichever is wrong). (more…)

Posted on March 19th, 2019 at 3:38 pm. Updated on June 13th, 2019 at 3:39 pm.

» Anime perse / The Jail: The Women’s Hell (2006, Italy)

The Jail: The Women's Hell - Yvette Yzon as Jennifer Estrada, making a gruesome discovery

Somehow, this film slipped past the gatekeeper. But if I ever wanted to remind myself why I avoid exploitative Women in Prison movies, this would do the trick. (more…)

Posted on February 25th, 2019 at 3:36 pm. Updated on December 9th, 2019 at 1:12 pm.

» The Jail of No Return (1994, Hong Kong)

The Jail of No Return - Little Blackness on the bamboo bed

At first blush, this is a wacky story of an island prison somewhere in Asia, ruled by a maniacal American, and featuring much creative brutality and some innovative implements of torture; the sort of film to which adolescents might be attracted. It was a bit of a surprise to learn later that it is based on a true story from the 1960s: that of the experimental penal colony Pulau Senang, just off the coast of Singapore, and the riot which led to its closure. (more…)

Posted on February 15th, 2019 at 3:32 pm. Updated on June 14th, 2019 at 8:37 pm.

» Prison-A-Go-Go! (2003, USA)

Prison-A-Go-Go! - Laurie Walton as Janie, and the shower scene countdown clock

The problem with these hit-and-miss spoofs is, well, that they’re hit-and-miss. (more…)

Posted on January 5th, 2019 at 4:28 pm. Updated on June 13th, 2019 at 3:23 pm.

» 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.

» Michael Inside (2017, Ireland)

Michael Inside - Dafhyd Flynn as Michael McCrea

“Are we quits, now?” asks the young, first-time prisoner of the older prisoner who had earlier come to his rescue, having just paid off the first instalment (by helping tip boiling water on a debtor) in return for the big favour. “Ask me again and I’ll stamp your face into the concrete,” the older man replies. And if the younger man didn’t realise up until that point that he was trapped, he does then. (more…)

Posted on November 6th, 2018 at 7:39 pm. Updated on August 29th, 2019 at 8:50 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.

(more…)

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