The Strip Search

» Lucknow Central (2017, India)

Lucknow Central - Deepak Dobryal as Victor Chattopadhyay, Rajesh Sharma as Purushottam Madan Pandit, Farhan Akhtar as Kishen Mohan Girhotra, Inaamulhaq as Dikkat Ansari and Gippy Grewal as Parminder ('Pali') Singh Gill

I’m not the most ardent fan of modern Bollywood productions; most are too long for my liking (this one weighs in at just shy of 2½ hours) and I generally find the musical interludes grating and intrusive. But at least in Lucknow Central (and Qaidi Band, another just-released Indian film about the formation of a jail band) music is integral to the plot, and (despite what was an apparently poor reception from Indian filmgoers) it’s a far-from-disastrous prison film. (more…)

Posted on December 31st, 2017 at 9:07 pm. Updated on January 12th, 2018 at 8:35 pm.

» Under Lock and Key (1995, USA)

Under Lock and Key - Wendi Westbrook as Danielle Peters with Trisha Berdot as Zelda and Dot Jones as Dot, both of whom are quite irrelevant to the plot

You know when a guard starts frisking a naked woman in the shower room that the technical advisor on prisons took a sick day on the day that scene was filmed. Or it’s that sort of movie.

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Posted on December 24th, 2017 at 3:12 pm. Updated on December 24th, 2017 at 3:12 pm.

» With Prisoners (2017, Hong Kong)

With Prisoners - Neo Yau Hawk-sau as Leung Yick Fan

Is it a good thing, ultimately, that this whistle-blowing film seems a little tame? That the boot camp abuses suffered by the juvenile offenders in Hong Kong’s Sha Tsui Detention Centre don’t seem to be as shocking as those in many other prison movies (which is not to say that gratuitous elbow strikes, and asking a detainee to clean a toilet with his fingers and then clean his teeth with the same fingers, and assorted other beatings and demeanings are not abusive). It’s a good thing for Hong Kong, isn’t it, if Sha Tsui (which caters for juveniles and young adults from 14 to 25) is not as rotten as some other prisons. Somehow, though, the film seems a little pallid and limp. (more…)

Posted on October 20th, 2017 at 5:08 pm. Updated on October 20th, 2017 at 5:08 pm.

» A Prayer Before Dawn (2017, France / UK)

A Prayer Before Dawn - Joe Cole as Billy Moore

‘Locked up in a Turkish prison’ has been the most reliable shorthand description of the horror of being a foreigner locked up abroad (or of any worst imaginable horror, really), probably since Midnight Express (1978). But the ordeal of Briton Billy Moore in A Prayer Before Dawn might have a few people viewing Thai prisons as the new high water mark. Or low water mark.

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Posted on August 12th, 2017 at 8:55 pm. Updated on August 29th, 2019 at 8:49 pm.

» Éperdument / Down by Love (2016, France)

Down by Love - Guillaume Gallienne as Major Jean Firmino and Adèle Exarchopoulos as Anna Amari

‘Distractedly’ is the English translation of this film’s French title. How does a prison director fall for a prisoner not much more than half his age? Distractedly, derangedly, stupidly. (more…)

Posted on May 10th, 2017 at 9:11 pm. Updated on May 10th, 2017 at 9:11 pm.

» Chattahoochee (1989, USA)

Chattahoochee - Gary Oldman (left) as Emmet Foley

Chattahoochee. Is it a prison for mentally ill prisoners, or psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane? It’s a fine line, but if you’re looking for a prison movie, it’s the latter, I’m afraid. (more…)

Posted on April 25th, 2017 at 5:32 pm. Updated on April 25th, 2017 at 5:32 pm.

» Imprisoned: Survival Guide for the Rich and Prodigal (2015, Hong Kong)

Imprisoned: Survival Guide for the Rich and Prodigal - Philip Keung as Wolfy (left), Babyjohn Choi as Roach (second from right) and Gregory Wong as Nelson Yu (at right)

You might expect a range of helpful tips in a prison survival guide. In this slightly offbeat comedy-drama, it seems that there’s just one: buy your way out of trouble. (more…)

Posted on March 6th, 2017 at 4:40 pm. Updated on March 6th, 2017 at 4:40 pm.

» Vast / Inside (2011, Netherlands)

Vast - Sigrid ten Napel as Isabel

This is a short (49-minute) but poignant portrait of a 16-year-old girl in a juvenile detention centre. Perhaps the first thing to note is that ‘vast’ in Dutch does not mean expansive, but rather ‘fixed’ or ‘set’; the film deals with her inability to break away from the things that have formed her – to deal with them and attempt to move on. (more…)

Posted on December 16th, 2016 at 8:12 pm. Updated on December 16th, 2016 at 8:12 pm.

» Lust for Freedom (1987, USA)

Lust for Freedom - Judi Trevor as Ms Pusker, William J Kulzer as Sheriff Coale and Melanie Coll as Gillian Kaites

“I never realised how much I took freedom for granted until it was taken away.” So says ex-cop, ex-prisoner and narrator Gillian Kaites (Melanie Coll), explaining her lust for freedom. Don’t expect anything deeper. (more…)

Posted on November 1st, 2016 at 9:45 am. Updated on November 1st, 2016 at 11:02 am.

» Fiore (2016, Italy)

Fiore - Daphne Scoccia as Daphne Bonori, with Josh in his cell in the background

Director Claudio Giovannesi taught at the Casal del Marmo juvenile detention facility in Rome for a number of months in order to get a better appreciation of the centre and its inhabitants. It paid off. This is a finely observed, stripped down, silence-rich portrait of an incarcerated young woman, and of her budding romance with a young man who is held in the male section of the same facility.

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Posted on October 4th, 2016 at 9:24 pm. Updated on October 4th, 2016 at 9:24 pm.