Mr Big

» Riot (2015, USA)


It surely can’t be coincidental that in 2015 we had the release of two prison movies in which a cop whose wife has been killed by a big-time criminal commits a major offence to get into prison to avenge his wife’s murder; the other being Vendetta. Perhaps the same story was pitched to several film-makers, and these two just happened to pick it up… unaware that the other had, too. Anyway, I’m not sure which I like better.. but this certainly wins in the novelty stakes.


Posted on April 19th, 2016 at 9:49 pm. Updated on April 19th, 2016 at 9:52 pm.

» Jailbird Rock (1988, USA / Argentina)

Jailbird Rock - Robin Antin as Jessie White and Robin x as Echo

I think it was when Warden Harold Bauman (Ron Lacey), in dismissing any idea of his prisoners putting on an artistic performance, said, “They’re not here to have fun. They’re here to be miserable,” that my wife asked, “Don’t you get sick of the same, same things all the time?”. Or it could have been earlier, such as at the arrival of the prisoner who doesn’t deserve to be in prison, or the tough prisoner running the show, or the ineffectual warden and his corrupt second-in-charge, or the earnest counsellor pushing for reform… It could have been at any point in the film, really. (more…)

Posted on November 22nd, 2015 at 5:10 pm. Updated on November 22nd, 2015 at 5:12 pm.

» Prison Break: The Final Break (2009, USA)

Prison Break: The Final Break - Aisha Hands as Guard Cowler and Sarah Wayne Callies as Dr Sara Tancredi

Not the TV series, exactly, but what was (until they announced a new season to run in 2016) the final feature-length Prison Break episode, which is supposed to stand on its own and be like a condensed fifth season. It’s a little tricky for me; I watched the first series, enjoyed it, but immediately lost interest once it went into a second, third and fourth season. There are consequently a few gaps in my understanding of what happened in-between, which Mr Google has since been kind enough to attempt to fill. (more…)

Posted on October 18th, 2015 at 3:41 pm. Updated on October 18th, 2015 at 3:48 pm.

» Bad Girls: The Musical (2009, UK)

Bad Girls: The Musical - Caroline Head as Nikki Wade and Laura Rogers as Helen Stewart

OK, OK… like the odd filmed play or opera about prison on DVD, this might not strictly fit the definition of a prison movie. But it’s not so different to many movies that are filmed in studios with disjointed plots, shoddy sets and stagy dialogue. (more…)

Posted on August 2nd, 2015 at 8:18 pm. Updated on September 19th, 2015 at 10:45 pm.

» Zombie Death House (1988, USA)

Zombie Death House - Earl Johnson as Arthur Adams holding the head of Head Guard Raker (Howard George)

To say that this is the best prison zombie movie I’ve seen is not saying much. But it is, even if it doesn’t contain any zombies. (more…)

Posted on March 16th, 2015 at 7:35 pm. Updated on March 16th, 2015 at 7:35 pm.

» Blackwell’s Island (1939, USA)

Blackwell's Island - Stanley Fields as 'Bull' Bransom takes in his new prison surroundings

The opening credits of Blackwell’s Island contain the standard disclaimer about no resemblance to any person living or dead being intended, but without the resemblance to actual persons and events this film would be decidedly more silly than it already is. (more…)

Posted on November 10th, 2014 at 7:57 pm. Updated on November 10th, 2014 at 7:57 pm.

» The Guys from Paradise (2000, Japan)

The Guys from Paradise - Kôji Kikkawa as Kohei Hayasake

“Here, I don’t find any inconvenience. This is heaven, isn’t it?” says one prisoner of the Filipino jail in which he’s banged up. And it is something of a safe haven for a select few – a place where money can buy anything, where one can carry on one’s illegal activities without too much interference, and where one can hide away from one’s enemies. (more…)

Posted on September 18th, 2014 at 9:17 pm. Updated on September 18th, 2014 at 9:17 pm.

» Starred Up (2013, UK)

Starred Up - Jack O'Connell asEric Love

Eric Love (Jack O’Connell) is 19, ‘starred up’ (transferred to adult prison prematurely from juvenile prison), and out to make a splash. On his first day he violently attacks an unsuspecting fellow prisoner, puts himself into a state of Bronsonesque arousal for the ensuing fight with prison officers and finishes up holding one officer hostage with an aerial at his throat and then gripping another’s privates between his teeth. I don’t know too many prisons that would allow him to just go back into the wing after that… even as an outcome negotiated for the officers’ release, but back to the wing he goes, the new prison Governor a little peeved that she hadn’t been advised of his arrival. It’s a mark of this film that it’s able to overcome that initial credibility gap and still be an exceptional prison movie.


Posted on August 30th, 2014 at 4:38 pm. Updated on August 29th, 2019 at 8:42 pm.

» The Valachi Papers (1972, Italy / France)

The Valachi Papers - Charles Bronson as Joe Valachi expresses his displeasure at his former Mob associates in the prison exercise yard

My problem with this movie is this: When you show a succession of unexceptional hoods scheming, thugging, racketeering and mowing down rivals in cold blood, why would you expect anyone to care what happens to them? Even when they turn on their former colleagues, as is the case in this long and rather tedious film.  (more…)

Posted on January 6th, 2013 at 7:22 pm. Updated on January 6th, 2013 at 7:22 pm.

» The Cracksman (1963, UK)

The Cracksman - Charlie Drake as Ernest Wright, master locksmith

One can imagine Ronnie Barker, not much more than an extra in this movie, sitting back and watching Charlie Drake play a too-eager-to-please prisoner in a delightful old British nick and thinking, “If I just made him gruffer, more of a rogue, less honest… it’d be funnier.” And then going away and making Porridge 10 or so years later, to so much more acclaim than this ever achieved. Which isn’t to say that The Cracksman has no merit.  (more…)

Posted on November 27th, 2012 at 8:38 pm. Updated on November 27th, 2012 at 8:38 pm.