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Starred Up

Graham Eley

Early on in this brutal but realist new feature from David MacKenzie, a wild young offender bites a prison officer’s balls pit bull style and refuses to let go; establishing his credentials with an unforgettable – and unimaginably painful – calling card as he prematurely transfers – ‘starring up’ – from a modern day Borstal to an adult prison and gives us the ultimate new kid on the cell block entrance.

 

It’s like watching a young Michael ‘Charles Bronson’ Peterson – the UK’s most violent prisoner – as he takes on the big boys and the battle-hardened screws with his ‘razor blade’ sharp intelligence and whip sword weapon of a body.

 

In time honoured fashion, he’s a lost cause in the eyes of the establishment – only fit for ‘warehousing’ as the corrupt Governor puts it – and an unwelcome disruption to the cell block status quo where the screws turn a blind eye to the cons’ power struggles in return for an easy life.

 

Only a prison therapist cares and he runs anger management groups but needs treatment himself – his Achilles heel.  These scenes are explosive – it’s what cinema is all about – the screen barely containing the tension as caged men explore their emotions at the brink of erupting – kicking off – seemingly the only state that lowers their guard.  It’s startlingly authentic, written by insider, Jonathan Asser, who was a prison therapist earlier in life, and sets the film’s tone more than the obligatory discordant jangle of locking doors and chiming bars.

 

Jack O’Connell plays the young offender and his character carries the quasi-sardonic surname, Love.  He’s only 24 but been on the screen for years, including an early supporting role in Shane Meadows’ ‘This Is England’.  This is O’Connell’s moment, his emergence as a star, with a breathtaking portrayal that combines an emotional indifference and knowing irony that is quite different from Ray Winstone’s iconic jnr gangster in ‘Scum’ all those years ago and far more sinister for it.

 

MacKenzie takes a risk with the plot; giving a literal edge to the metaphorical father/son theme of the prison sub-genre with Love’s old man being in the same ‘nick’.  It occasionally threatens to destabilise the film but MacKenzie holds it together by inverting the more conventional set pieces and there’s a magnetic chemistry between Ben Mendelsohn as the dad and chief con No. 2 and O’Connell that distracts us from any plot contrivance or, at least, until after the final credits.discount cialis 5mg cialis sale online canada cheap cialis 20mgcialis express shipping buy cialis cheap prices fast delivery cialis online canadian where to buy cialis online safely

 

  • Year: 2013
  • Country: UK
  • Filmmaker: David MacKenzie
  • Screenwriter: Jonathan Asser
  • Producer: Gillian Berrie
  • Cinematographer: Michael McDonough
  • Editor: Nick Emerson
  • Cast: Jack O'Connell, Ben Mendelsohn and Rupert Friend
  • Duration: 100 mins
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