» Sulla mia pelle / On My Skin (2018, Italy)

On 22 October 2009 Stefano Cucchi, a 31-year-old surveyor, boxer, and drug user for 15 years, died in Sandro Pertini prison hospital while awaiting trial on drug possession and trafficking charges. He had been arrested in Rome on 15 October with a modest amount of drugs, and had been badly beaten by the arresting Carabinieri – suffering a broken jaw, two broken vertebrae, and other facial injuries, amongst others. When found dead in his prison ward seven days later he weighed just 37kg. On My Skin recounts the story of this young man, (‘twice murdered by the state’¹), over that week. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on May 3rd, 2020 at 12:04 pm. Updated on May 3rd, 2020 at 12:04 pm.

» Us (2019, USA)

I knew before I watched this that it contained no prison at all. Nada. Zilch. But give me massed red boiler-suits and I’ll have trouble seeing anything other than a commentary on mass incarceration in America, or at least something prisonny. And I was hoping that, not unlike Chicken Run, for example, or any of the Das Experiment variants, maybe it didn’t need to have any prison scenes to make a contribution to the genre. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on April 28th, 2020 at 10:59 am. Updated on July 7th, 2020 at 11:24 pm.

» Swathanthryam Ardharathriyil / Freedom at Midnight (2018, India)

Post-Shawshank riddle: How does a first-time, stitched-up, white-collar financial services chap on a murder charge cope with prison? A: He digs deep.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on April 15th, 2020 at 10:03 pm. Updated on April 15th, 2020 at 10:03 pm.

» Convict (2014, Egypt)

If it helps avoid confusion with the disappointing Australian film also named Convict (and also released in 2014), Google suggests that the Arabic title for this film – currently available on Netflix – translates as ‘What are you, prisons?’. That might not help much, but it’s a fair question. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on April 12th, 2020 at 2:17 pm. Updated on April 12th, 2020 at 2:17 pm.

» Shaun the Sheep (2015, UK / France / USA)

1. I know it’s not a prison movie; the prisonny bits are not the main game. 2. I know that prisonny bits are not exactly prison, either; the pedantic would call it an animal containment centre, or pound, or shelter for lost, seized and abandoned (read ‘socially disadvantaged’) animals. 3. I don’t care. The containment centre is a prison and is full of wonderful prison clichés. But I do have to admit that it’s a little unusual for a jailer to personally pursue his detainees after they have escaped. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on April 11th, 2020 at 11:10 pm. Updated on April 11th, 2020 at 11:10 pm.

» The Forgiven (2017, UK)

From a distance, the post-apartheid South Africa after Nelson Mandela was elected in 1994 appeared to be an exemplar of how two sides of a civil war might be united. Its Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) appeared a model for how a new democratic government might deal with human rights violations perpetrated by both sides, the oppressors and the oppressed, and from that build an inclusive future for all. Up a weeny bit closer, The Forgiven shows some of the fragility of that new order as it seeks to establish itself; the persistence of deep-seated racism, the attempts to undermine the process, and the toll taken on the TRC as it bore the weight of expectations from both the black and white communities. Oh, and all of that in prison. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on April 3rd, 2020 at 8:59 pm. Updated on April 3rd, 2020 at 9:06 pm.

» Tomorrow’s Joe (2011, Japan)

Tomorrow’s Joe is a reworking, 40+ years down the track, of the boxing manga Ashita no Joe, which had already inspired a 79-episode TV series, two feature films (one anime) and another spin-off. It’s a Rocky-esque rags-to-not-quite-riches underdog story, with prison setting the tone for what is to come.  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on March 13th, 2020 at 11:17 am. Updated on March 19th, 2020 at 3:49 pm.

» Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story (1980, USA)

So, the whole shocking story of Alcatraz’s 29-year life as a Federal Penitentiary comes down to just two incidents, does it – the May 1946 failed escape attempt known as the ‘Battle of Alcatraz’, and the June 1962 escape bid that may or may not have been successful? Oh, and a bit of filler in-between about Clarence Carnes and Robert Stroud. Nothing else, it seems, was shocking, or part of the whole Alcatraz story. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on March 7th, 2020 at 8:14 pm. Updated on March 7th, 2020 at 8:14 pm.

» Alcatraz (2018, UK / USA)

This latest Alcatraz film is ‘inspired by real events’. It is low budget and low on authenticity. It is also, sadly, at the low end of the interest scale. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on February 24th, 2020 at 6:49 pm. Updated on February 24th, 2020 at 6:49 pm.

» The Informer (2019, UK)

The Informer has a little more complexity than most action thrillers. But not so much that it explains why IMDb’s précis (“An ex-convict working undercover intentionally gets himself incarcerated again in order to infiltrate the mob at a maximum security prison”) pretty much misses the point entirely. ‘Intentionally gets himself incarcerated’, yes, but he returns to prison extremely reluctantly, and only when two figurative guns are pointed at his head – one by the mob and the other by the FBI. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on February 15th, 2020 at 8:22 pm. Updated on February 15th, 2020 at 8:22 pm.