STARRED UP (2014)

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In the tradition of great British prison dramas, Scum, Midnight Express, Bronson, The Escapist and the under appreciated Channel 4 series, Buried, the soon to be famous Jack O’Connell plays the violent, troubled, Eric Love, an eighteen year old who has just been transferred to the big boys’ jail in this visceral, brilliant, prison drama.

Director David Mackenzie and writer Jonathan Asser pull no punches as they take us into this brutal prison world with its own rules. It is incredibly violent, as you’d expect and is filled with raw realism and grim truths about the prison system.

O’Connell is fierce and utterly believable as the young con. He was memorable as the young skinhead in Shane Meadows’ incredible film This is England. He leapt off the screen in Channel 4’s Skins and was truly scary in Eden Lake. He is shortly to be seen in ’71, as the British soldier separated from his troops in Belfast in 1971 and as the runner, Louis Zampernini in Angelina Jolie’s upcoming film, Unbroken.

It’s only a matter of time before he is a household name. A wonderful screen actor who has the acting world at his feet.

Ben Mendelsohn is superb as Eric’s father, also locked up in the prison, Neville Love.
So here we have a different take on the prison drama, lock up and fathers and sons.
This is perhaps, the film’s greatest strength, realistically portraying the complications of this primal relationship.

The supporting cast are all brilliant, giving such real that at times it feels like a documentary. Rupert Friend is great as Oliver Baumer, the social worker who tries to connect with the prisoners in his group sessions. David Ajala, Anthony Welsh and Raphael Sowole are all hyper-real as fellow inmates. Sam Spruell is sleazy as the man in charge dishing out harsh punishment when he sees fit.

This is a brutal, unflinching look at the prison system in the U.K. and is important as Scum in its raw honesty. This also shares some of the themes of the excellent and also very violent, Un Prophete.

Not for the faint of heart.

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4/5

A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (Per un pugno di dollari) 1964

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“I don’t think it’s nice, you laughin’. You see, my mule don’t like people laughing. He gets the crazy idea you’re laughin’ at him. Now if you apologize, like I know you’re going to, I might convince him that you really didn’t mean it.”

Clint Eastwood plays Yojimbo, a lone samurai…..
Sorry, start again.

Akira Kurosawa directs the first of the spaghetti westerns…
Only joking.

Toshiro Mifune gives a career defining performance as The Man with No Name in Serfio Leone’s…..
Rewind….

Sergio Leone remade Yojimbo as A Fistful of Dollars (Per un Pugno di Dollari) re-located to the American west, consequently getting sued by Kurosawa and losing 15% of the film’s worldwide gross, Kurosawa stated later that he made more money from Dollars than his original Yojimbo.
In actual fact, the source material was the 1942 film noir The Glass Key which was based on the Dashiell Hamnett novel.

The plot is simple, a lone gunman comes to a town and starts to play off the two crime families against each other to his own benefit.

Clint Eastwood creates the iconic anti-hero, The Man With No Name in this seminal western with European sensibilities; all looks and attitude. As we all know now, this was the first of Leone’s Spaghetti Western trilogy. All of them are classic films that had a massive impact and influence on many films that came after.

The long, lingering close-up shots, Ennio Morricone’s seminal soundtrack and the brilliant Gian Maria Volonte as the slightly deranged Ramon Rojo help to make this wonderful western opera.

Just brilliant.

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4.5/5