After a summer season of blockbusters that gave the cinematic …
Most prison stories are stories about men. But there are stories about men, and then there are stories about masculinity. The latter is much harder to pull off, because masculinity means different things to different men in different situations. That’s why David Mackenzie’s new film Starred Up is so masterfully tense
There’s a scene in the first act of the film where the young protagonist Eric, in an effort to gain control of a situation to proclaim his innocence, bites down on a prison guard’s genitals and holds on like a dog with a chew toy. That moment alone does a lot to encapsulate the do-or-die realities of the film’s prison environment, but more importantly showcases the immediate talent of its star Jack O’Connell: Like it or not, he demands your attention and he’s not letting go anytime soon.
Director David MacKenzie (Young Adam, Mister Foe) brings us a bloodily fresh film about a young upstart condemned to a lengthy prison sentence who thinks that he can’t be contained by the system or gangs. Upon arriving he encounters his long lost father who is also incarcerated. They are both unable to express their extreme emotions without it coming to violence.
The teenage criminal Eric Love (Jack O’Connell) seems street-smart enough to navigate the corruption of the British prison system. But after his violent streak sends him to an adult prison, Eric comes face to face with Nev (Ben Mendelsohn), a career criminal…and his long-lost father. The two have not seen each other in years, and while they warily test each other, other murderous authority figures attempt to control the boy. Director David Mackenzie (Young Adam,TFF 2003) has crafted a lean, vigorous film, shot economically by Winter’s Bone DP Michael McDonoughfrom the utterly convincing script by Jonathan Asser, a former therapist in the prison system. But Starred Up’s greatest pleasure is O’Connell’s sensationally kinetic breakout role, reminiscent of Tahar Rahim in A Prophet. Somewhere in Movie Star Heaven, James Cagney is applauding. –LG (U.K., 2013, 100m)