The Welcome Speech

» 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.

» Now Barabbas Was a Robber (1949, UK)

Now Barabbas Was a Robber - Stephen Murray as the Padre and Richard Greene as Dick Tufnell

It’s Good Friday as I’m writing this… and pondering, fittingly, the allusion to Barabbas in the title. What can it mean? One thread of the film concerns a man who has mightily affronted the authorities, and whose non-judgmental love for a prostitute has ‘healed’ her. A little familiar, you might think. But there’s no guilty rogue spared here while an innocent man goes to his death; the man awaiting execution is very much guilty (of the premeditated murder of a policeman), and none of those who walk free, or go unpunished, are of Barabbas’s ilk… and nor do they pave the way for the other man’s execution. (more…)

Posted on April 30th, 2019 at 3:39 pm. Updated on June 13th, 2019 at 3:40 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.

» Papillon (2017, USA and others)

Papillon - Rami Malek as Louis Dega and Charlie Hunnam as Henri 'Papillon' Charrière

I’m afraid I wasn’t a big fan of the first filmed version of Henri Charrière’s life story, Papillon (1973), starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman. I thought it tedious, and a disappointing retelling of the boisterous, if largely fanciful, written account. And I’m not all that keen to go back and revisit it to see if that judgment was a little harsh, having just watched the remake… which I think is an improvement.

(more…)

Posted on December 8th, 2018 at 8:38 pm. Updated on December 8th, 2018 at 8:46 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.

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

» The Archer (2017, USA)

The Archer - Bailey Noble as Lauren Pierce

The 2008 ‘kids for cash’ scandal in Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County resulted in two judges, Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, ultimately receiving sentences of 28 and 17½ years respectively for taking kickbacks from for-profit juvenile detention centres (enhanced by giving children unnecessary or excessive sentences to prolong their stays there). Children were branded as delinquents and sent to the centres for as little as mocking an assistant principal on a MySpace page, being found in a vacant building, and cursing another child’s mother, and the case is cited as the inspiration for this movie. None of the affected children, to my knowledge, were champion archers… but there were several thousand victims, so there could well have been champion archers, philatelists, lacrosse players, trichologists and kids whose other skills withered as they endured unnecessary spells in custody. (more…)

Posted on June 14th, 2018 at 8:58 pm. Updated on June 14th, 2018 at 8:58 pm.

» La 4ª Compañía / The 4th Company (2016, Mexico)

The 4th Company - Manuel Ojeda as Colonel Chaparro in front of the Dogs, including Andoni Gracia as Combate (68) and Adrián Ladrón as Zambrano (10)

This is prison movie fusion; a football story à la The Longest Yard (1974) and (2005) and Mean Machine (2001), combined with – and in the context of – an extraordinary story of high level corruption in a Mexico City prison. It’s not entirely congruous; it’s a bit like dropping the Birdman of Alcatraz into the middle of Corcoran State Prison while ‘gladiator day’ fights as depicted in Felon (2008) are staged around him. (more…)

Posted on June 9th, 2018 at 4:57 pm. Updated on June 9th, 2018 at 4:57 pm.

» Jogo de Xadrez / Chess Game (2014, Brazil)

Chess Game - Priscila Fantin as Mina

Chess. It features in so many prison films, and I’m never sure if it hearkens back to a time before TVs were allowed in prisons and prisoners were assiduous chess players, or whether it is just filmmakers’ code – a lazy shorthand way of telling the audience that this person is a master strategist. That said, only a week or so ago I visited a juvenile prison where several young Aboriginal boys were huddled around a chess board, and another giant chess set adorned the yard; maybe it’s making a comeback. In any event, there’s no chess played here, in this film. (more…)

Posted on May 14th, 2018 at 8:58 pm. Updated on May 14th, 2018 at 9:08 pm.

» Seventeen Years (1999, China)

Seventeen Years - Liu Lin as Tao Lan

Seven minutes. Just seven minutes of action inside the prison, and yet it says more about the impact of incarceration than most movies set entirely within prison walls. (more…)

Posted on March 20th, 2018 at 7:22 pm. Updated on March 20th, 2018 at 7:22 pm.