Starred Up


Action / Crime / Drama


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May 01, 2015 at 02:43 AM


Rupert Friend as Oliver Baumer
Jack O'Connell as Eric Love
Ben Mendelsohn as Neville Love
Sam Spruell as Deputy Governor Haynes
720p 1080p
813.14 MB
Not Rated
23.976 fps
1hr 46 min
P/S 1 / 54
1.65 GB
Not Rated
23.976 fps
1hr 46 min
P/S 3 / 24

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by freemantle_uk 7 / 10

The tough and violent world of a British prison

The prison sub-genre has produced many great films over the years, giving us the likes of The Shawshank Redemption, Hunger and Escape from Alcatraz. The critically acclaimed British movie Starred Up from Perfect Sense director David Mackenzie hopes to join their ranks.

Eric Love (Jack O'Connell) is a 19-year-old sent to adult prison two years early because he is known as 'starred up', a very violent offender. On his first day in prison, Eric manages to make a weapon, knocks out a fellow prisoner which causes a lock-down and fights the prison guards leading to him biting one of them in the testicles. Despite his violent behaviour, a prison volunteer, Oliver (Rupert Friend) offers to have Eric in his anger management group and help him change his behaviour. Nev (Ben Mendelsohn), Eric's father and fellow prisoner is forced to try and take his son under his wing, partly to protect him being killed by the crime boss of the prison, Spencer (Peter Ferdinando), because lock-downs disrupt business. But as Eric starts to manage his anger, he finds mentors from other prisoners, putting his father out of place as he tries to be the man he is meant to be.

Starred Up is a harsh look at the British prison system and tells an unconventional father and son relationship. Mackenzie uses hand-held cinematography, using sequences that are long takes and gives Starred Up a fly-on-the-wall feel, whether it was following Eric in the prison or simply watching Eric grow in the group sessions and control his anger. Mackenzie shows the violence as prisoners fight, stab and make weapons. He gives us some strong fighting sequences, such as Eric's first fight and a fight in a shower. There are plenty of elements that would remind people of other prison movies like Scum, A Prophet and Bronson, sharing visual cues when the camera follows Eric, makes his weapon and how he prepares for fights.

At times, Starred Up plays a little like a British version of the excellent HBO show Oz, taking a look at various factions in the prison. There are various criminal forces with their own angles, the personal vendettas between the prisoners and internal politics between prisoners and within the prison staff. There are debates within the prison staff, as they decide what is the best course with dealing with Eric. Oliver is made out to be a hopeful man who actually wants to reform prisoners, give them hope and elaborates on what is the point of prison, rehabilitation or punishment? This is an issue that has been debated in Britain since the end of the 18th century.

A key part of Starred Up is the relationship between Eric and Nev, both excellently played by O'Connell and Mendelsohn as they learn to actually become father and son. Nev has only one setting when dealing with Eric, aggression and shouting, believing he needs to be tough with Eric to get the message across. Yet, Nev states that Eric has a chance of getting released from prison and should play the system, just so he can get out. In prison, Eric finds other mentors in the form of Oliver and two other prisoners, Tyrone (David Ajala) and Hassan (Anthony Welsh) who wishes to usurp Nev's role.

Eric gets glimpses at what could be his future could be because of the different prisoners he is with. He could end up like his father, a violent lifer, a leading crime lord in prison or be like Tyrone (David Ajala) and Hassan (Anthony Welsh) and actually turn his life around.

Starred Up is a very macho film, filled with fighting, violence, male posturing and liberal uses of the f and c words as Mackenzie shows this very brutal, violent world. The only prominent female character is one of the Governors played by Sian Breckin and she is only a small role who appears in a few scenes. The female prison guards that appear in the movie are really speaking extras.

Mackenzie has shown himself to be a director who can get strong performances from his actors, such in his previous movie Perfect Sense. He again provides a strong work, through his hiring of a strong cast of respected actors. O'Connell gives a deliberately ambiguous performance as he is hard to read: he is a character that is anti-authority and willing to use his fists: but has some morals and ethics even in prison. Friend is very good in his role as Oliver, but he is made out to be a very nervous and timid character and even though he is a good natured character those traits for someone working with violent offenders.

Starred Up keeps to a British tradition of violent, kitchen sink realism, while the writer Jonathan Asser wants to tell a personal story. It is a brutal movie that makes sure that prison is a terrifying environment and fans of Scum and Oz should enjoy Starred Up.

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Reviewed by I'm Batman 8 / 10

Brutal and Brilliant

For a film that seemed to come out of nowhere, with a limited advertisement campaign and small budget, Starred Up has proved to be one of the more ballsy pictures released in some time - and with a UK release date sandwiched between two major blockbuster sequels, it had to do something to stand out from the crowd.

The main attribute of the film is its acting, most notably central character Jack O'Connell; a career-best performance from our lead protagonist serves as the driving force of the film, immersing the audience so much in the drama of it all that we can't believe we're feeling sorry for the prick we thought we knew in the opening stages.

However we all know that good acting doesn't necessarily constitute a good film; but placing such talent in the hands of David Mackenzie and providing a gripping (albeit unoriginal) story line is a damn good combination.

Despite the many positives, where this film fails is in the variety of on-screen shenanigans. Although it does slowly progress, the day-to-day life on the inside seems repetitive and predictable, particularly when the overall message is all too familiar and practically clichéd.

All in all however, Starred Up is one of the best prison dramas in a long time, and probably the best British film this year. Not for the faint-hearted, this superbly acted drama will scare you into following the law to the strictest command.

Reviewed by davideo-2 9 / 10

A generally fine effort that brings the brutal world of Brit prisons into the 21st century

STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning

Eric Love (Jack O'Connoll) is a couple of years younger than necessary to be transferred from a young offender's institution to an adult prison, but due to his explosively violent nature, a rare exception has been made. He seems under control, until he is disturbed while sleeping by another inmate and ferociously over-reacts. After trying and failing to talk his way out of the situation, his inflamed, anti-authoritarian streak bursts to life and he proves tricky for Governor Hayes (Sam Spruell) and his staff to deal with. From here, he encounters two people who may be the key to turning him round: dedicated social worker Oliver (Rupert Friend) and Neville (Ben Mendolsohn) the equally violent head of the wing...who also happens to be his dad.

While the harsh reality of prison life is rarely glossed over in any sort of filmed medium, save for maybe Ronnie Barker's hit sitcom Porridge, since the late '70's nothing quite like Alan Clarke's Scum has come close to matching the gritty brutality and hopelessness of prison life, leaving it a genre just begging to be dragged in to the 21st century with a fresh injection of raw adrenaline. The opening half of David Mackenzie's film seems to rely on atmosphere rather than exposition, with a dialogue light opening half as the lead protagonist is lead to his cell, and made to go through the various rituals and indignities on his way there until the door is locked shut. When O'Connoll first speaks (in a cockney accent!) it's with the prison lingo that will make no sense to those who don't know it, and from there on in he frequently opens his mouth with savage ferocity and intense profanity.

Starred Up is hailed as O'Connoll's 'break through' film, and there's no doubt he's running the show here, firmly commanding his presence as the explosive thug with raging personal issues blaring inside him, in a role that he's got form with and suits well. It's the closest thing he may well have in making him a household name, or at least getting a cult following among some. There are strong supporting turns also from Friend as the impassioned social worker and Mendolsohn as the closest thing to an authority figure O'Connoll will be made to respect. It's a film driven more by the nature of his respective relationships with these two men, and as such it feels more about these human dynamics rather than the story, which by the end has lost it's coherence a bit and loses your attention, despite the ensuing events still holding your attention for other reasons.

Still, sometimes, a film needs to come along that hits you like a punch in the dark, and Starred Up fits the bill perfectly, a brutal, unflinching expose of a world most of us probably don't want to imagine, a little flawed, but mostly solid. ****

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