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

OLDBOY ‘Oldeuboi’ (2003)

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As the remake was coming out and it was being made by Spike, I thought a revisit to the original was in order to refresh the memory.

Chan-wook Park’s 2nd part of his Vengeance trilogy opens with a startling image and doesn’t let up until the final credits. A man holding a dog is being held precariously by his tie off the top of a very high building.

In a sense this could be a metaphor for Oh Dae-Su’s state throughout the film. Never safely on the roof nor splattered onto the ground below. We also feel this as the audience, never quite knowing until the end what the reason for all this is.

It reminded me that I have yet to see Lady Vengeance, the director’s final part to the trilogy, in theme only. It also relit the fire I have for South Korean cinema.

Over the last 15 years or so South Korea has been churning out such quality fare that supersedes the quality of most western films. The first one I saw also came out in 2003, the sublime Untold Scandal, a reworking of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Since then I have been more than impressed by the outpouring of artistic, innovative films that this country has been producing.

Oldboy really is a classic, a film with its own sense of individuality.

Choi Min-sik is brilliant as the main protagonist, Oh Dae-su. He perfectly balances anger, vengeance, confusion beautifully.

Yi Ji-tae plays Lee Woo-jin with charisma and menace and Kang Hye-jung as Mido, Dae Su’s guardian angel is heart breaking.

Rightfully lauded with awards upon its release this epic piece of cinema was always going to be remade, it just took someone with balls like Spike to do it. (Misguided balls?).

If you haven’t seen it, watch it. If you are squeamish, maybe close your eyes for some of it.
(Octopus, anyone?).

It is a superb film that really shouldn’t be tainted by any remake.
I have yet to see Spike’s version, but I will be very surprised if it adds anything to this incredible tale of vengeance and deception.

The music is exceptional. Nearly all of the music cues are named after film titles, mostly noirs (thanks Wiki). And like my friend said, if all the pieces of the film are in place you have yourself a masterpiece. That is most definitely an accurate description of this very well made film.

On another note there is a fantastic documentary-The Autobiography of Oldboy which has English subtitles. It is 3 and a half hours long and really takes you into the process of the making of.

Here is the link, in case you wish to see it:

The Autobiography of Oldboy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D55QL0TkiJ0

4.8/5

BUY THE BLU-RAY DVD HERE

DOWNLOAD THE FILM ON iTUNES HERE