Mr Big

» Broken Bars (1995, USA)

Broken Bars - Benjamin Kobby / Maccabee as Nick Slater and Don Gibb as Mr Jake

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. (more…)

Posted on December 26th, 2010 at 10:44 pm. Updated on December 26th, 2010 at 10:49 pm.

» Lockdown (2000, USA)

Lockdown - Richard T Jones as Avery Montgomery

Lockdown is a prison movie for traditionalists – murders, stabbings, drug use, drug deals, racial tension, rapes, crooked guards… and in the middle of it all, a good, innocent man struggling to survive. (more…)

Posted on November 26th, 2010 at 9:55 pm. Updated on March 6th, 2016 at 5:06 pm.

» Pros & Cons (1999, USA)

Pros & Cons - Larry Miller as Ben Babbitt, acting tough and being treated as 'royalty'

It might not be the best recommendation to say that this wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I had expected. One review had it marked down as ‘hideous’ and another* concluded that it was so beset with problems that it ‘should stay in lock-up, with no eligibility for parole.’ And it’s true; the ending is an absolute shocker, and the 20-second Jerry Seinfeld-Paul Reiser cameo is terrible. But the rest of the film is on a par with lots of other pretty average prison comedies – amongst them Stir Crazy (1980), with which this shares quite a lot. Not the rodeo, thankfully. (more…)

Posted on October 25th, 2010 at 10:22 pm. Updated on October 25th, 2010 at 10:22 pm.

» Evasive Action (1998, USA)

Evasive Action - DeLane Mathews as Zoe Clark and Dorian Harewood as Luke Sinclair

My wife tells me that I have trouble in admitting I’m wrong. Luke Sinclair (Dorian Harewood) won’t tell the Parole Board that he was wrong in having killed the man who was taunting him after being acquitted (on a technicality) of killing his wife and daughter, so he is forced to do most of his 15 year sentence. For his obduracy he is also required to reprise the Nicolas Cage role in Con Air (1997) in this low-grade thriller, also known as Steel Train (to distinguish it from what? Papier-mâché Train? Polyester Train?). They could well have called it Con Rail. (more…)

Posted on April 5th, 2010 at 6:06 pm. Updated on April 5th, 2010 at 6:06 pm.

» Las Islas Marías (1951, Mexico)

Las Islas Marías - Pedro Infante as Felipe Ortiz Suárez

This is a simple story about honour. And love. And how one man finds them both on an island penal colony. (more…)

Posted on April 2nd, 2010 at 5:21 pm. Updated on April 2nd, 2010 at 5:35 pm.

» Un Prophète / A Prophet (2009, France)

A Prophet - Tahar Rahim as Malik and Niels Arestrup as Cesar

There are plenty who are touting this as a masterpiece of dark and gritty prison realism. And there are certainly some masterful bits. But is it a prison movie masterpiece? I’m not so sure. (more…)

Posted on February 21st, 2010 at 6:42 pm. Updated on August 29th, 2019 at 8:45 pm.

» Mickey B (2007, UK)

Mickey B - with Jason Thompson as Ladyboy

Just how much acclaim should you give a film for its worthiness alone? As an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Mickey B is just OK (and even then, much better, I suspect, if you’re familiar with the plot of Macbeth; half the pleasure is in the recognition of each new character and scene). But as a story of a group of real prisoners, mostly murderers and long-termers in Maghaberry Prison in Northern Ireland, making some important discoveries about themselves while making the film, it’s inspiring. (more…)

Posted on February 6th, 2010 at 9:02 pm. Updated on August 13th, 2012 at 10:24 pm.

» Atrapadas / Condemned to Hell (1984, Argentina)


I don’t know whether it was the grainy print, or the DVD cover which has Leonor Benedetto looking like a bloke in drag, or maybe the general sleaziness, but Atrapadas (which translates as ‘Trapped’) has a definite ’70s feel about it. I kept waiting for Pam Grier to make an appearance. (more…)

Posted on January 26th, 2010 at 9:16 pm. Updated on February 2nd, 2010 at 7:54 pm.

» Diamond Geezer (2005, UK)

Diamond Geezer - David Jason as Des

There are echoes of all sorts of other movies in Diamond Geezer (known as Rough Diamond in Australia). The plot (master criminal seeks perfect alibi by escaping from prison, committing a huge robbery and then returning to prison before anyone notices that he’s been gone) is very reminiscent of Two Way Stretch (1960). The main character, Des (David Jason), seems to borrow some features from ‘Blanco’ Webb, the elderly prisoner Sir David played in the Porridge TV series. And the prison’s top dog, Mr Fellows (Gary Whelan), carries on a fine British film tradition [The Italian Job (1960), and Porridge (1979) for starters] of crime lords ruling the prison from their prison cells, not always in a gentlemanly manner. It’s all very comfortably familiar. (more…)

Posted on January 17th, 2010 at 4:38 pm. Updated on January 25th, 2010 at 11:45 pm.

» Jail (2009, India)

Jail - the accommodation block with Parag at extreme right

This has been referred to as India’s answer to The Shawshank Redemption (1994), and you can sort of see why. Both feature an innocent man in jail, denied justice, and both Andy Dufresne in Shawshank and Parag Dixit in this movie are detached outsiders in the prison environment. But that’s about where the similarity ends. While Andy calmly and patiently plays the game, Parag is intense, humourless, and in a perpetual seethe at the injustice of it all. (more…)

Posted on December 27th, 2009 at 8:03 pm. Updated on January 2nd, 2010 at 11:26 am.