Monday, December 8, 2014

Starred Up (2013)

Director: David Mackenzie
Writer:    Jonathan Asser
Cast:       Jack O'Connell, Ben Mendelsohn, Rupert Friend

A troubled and explosively violent teenager (Jack O'Connell) is transferred to an adult prison which also happens to occupy his father (Ben Mendelsohn). They didn't have much of a relationship before their meeting in prison and the father is trying to look out for him, even though he is a stranger to him by most measures. The son can take care of himself and the interference from father doesn't do either of them any good.

The title term 'Starred Up'  is used to describe the early transfer of a criminal from a Young Offender Institution to an adult prison. The protagonist is what he is partly because of the shitty parenting that he had. When he ends up in prison he gets more of the same although by the end of the film he develops a sort of relation with his father. That can be seen as a positive but it is at a cost. It can also be seen as a teenage drama where the parent doesn't know what his child wants. Great thing about the kid character is that it doesn't go into extremes like most films do when it comes to a violent character like this. He is behaving like a very angry teenager. But it is not without reason since he is trying to cope in a new environment where his anger issues is not doing him any favors. He ends up in a group of inmates who are handled by a social worker/researcher. There he finds people who are more extreme than him which basically puts him in his place. The whole 'Nurture' aspect of it displayed by the researcher is contrasted with the 'Nature' way of dealing things by the administration. This is a very cliched aspect in almost all the prison dramas but you cannot fault that because prison is somewhere you cannot ignore 'Nature Vs Nurture' debate.

The performances are excellent and it is good to see Ben Mendelsohn again (Animal Kingdom, Killing Them Softly). It has to be said that there is not much variety in the roles that he is getting but he has been excellent in playing these foul mouthed nearly deranged individuals. The film is based on the screenwriter Jonathan Asser's experience as a therapist in a prison. I haven't seen any other British prison dramas except for Nicolas Winding Refn's 'Bronson' which I didn't like. 

Rating: 4/5