Title: Starred Up (2013)
Play time: 1h 46min
Director: David Mackenzie
Starring: Jack O’Connell, Ben Mendelsohn, Rupert Friend
Starred Up – Clear Ideological Agenda
I might have expected anything from David Mackenzie, the prolific and consistently fascinating Scottish director of such diverse fare as Perfect Sense, Asylum, Tonight You’re Mine and Spread, but not an earnest problem picture about the fates of violent offenders in the British prison system. Starred Up has a clear ideological agenda in telling the story of a young tough (Jack O’Connell) who is reunited with his absent father upon being transferred to an adult prison, where he’s taken under the wing of a rogue therapist (Rupert Friend) who believes criminals can be rehabilitated if they can learn to respond to challenges with means other than violence. But the prison guards who run the show have other ideas.
Too Dramatically Convenient – Starred Up (2013)
The film is heavy-handed: the prison-chief villain is too aggressively malevolent, and the father-son stuff is just a bit too much — too dramatically convenient. But the depiction of a kid gradually learning to exert control over his deeply-ingrained violent instincts is plausible, thanks in large part to a fiery lead performance by Jack O’Connell, and Starred Up is entertaining in the timeless ne’er-do-well-makes-good tradition. Mackenzie also does a nice job establishing a complex and convincing network of cellblock relationships in a short amount of time. This isn’t his most interesting work, but you could do much worse for an issue movie.