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Screwed Film and DVD Review
One of the genres or mixed genres of film that I like to watch are the British made prison film, football hooligan films and the gangster/criminal/heist movies that are churned out year after year. I say churned out because there are a lot of them. Some of them are well made and some of them are trying to make a small profit on their slim budgets by cashing in on the genre.
Screwed is a serious take on the life of an ex-squaddie and what life is like in one of the tougher British Prisons as an active prison guard. The story is based on the experiences of Ronnie Thompson, who wrote a book about it and also penned the screenplay to this film. Thompson spent seven years working in various prisons and the screenplay is based on the book and the experiences he went through in the job.
James D'Arcy plays the lead role of Sam Norwood and plays it really well. It is quite a versatile role in that he had to play an ex-squaddie, just back from Iraq and portray all that goes with that. He suffers from nightmares and flashbacks and the death of his friend dying in his arms haunts him. Not the best grounding for working in an enclosed space with hardened criminals who have the ability to spontaneously self-combust at any moment. Darcy, whose real name is Simon D'Arcy is an accomplished actor who has been around since nineteen ninety-five and starred in many TV productions and many big name movies. His latest work includes the role of Anthony Perkins in Hitchcock. He was brilliant in that and it is a movie I well may review at a future date. He is a grounded young man and very versatile. In an interview he was quoted as saying 'I don't have any expectations as an actor and being rich and famous is not my driving force. I'm not really very ambitious. I'm more interested in enjoying my life and looking after my family than being hugely successful. There are lots of people I admire and respect, but I don't necessarily want to be like them. I'm too happy being myself.' Now if you can't admire that, then what can you admire? Darcy's performance is the lynch-pin of the movie and I think he did a great job.
The backing cast are a who's who of British films, some good films and some not so good but you can guarantee that they all have one thing in common, irrelevant of their past work; they can all act.
Noel Clarke plays the prisoner named Truman and brings with it that 'wouldn't trust him as far as you could throw him' persona. Clarke is a talented young lad who is equally as comfortable in front of the camera as he is behind it. Having directed 'Kidulthood' and the sequel 'Adulthood' at a very young age, this versatile young man is no stranger to violent, gritty dramas. Most of you will remember him from the first series of the modern day Doctor Who. He has come a long way and I think he will continue to grow as an actor and director and good luck to him.
Frank Harper plays Deano and as you would expect it is his usual type of role. He has the cockney slang and the swagger and an air of menace around it at the same time as being one of the lads. He plays a prison guard that befriends Sam but is not at all who he seems to be. Harper has played this role over and over in different guises in such films as 'The Football Factory', 'Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels' and 'This is England'. Love him or hate him (or the characters he plays) the man can act the part.
David Hayman plays the governor of the prison and again is playing a role he is accustomed to; a role that is no nonsense and to the point. Most of you will recognise him from TV's 'Trial and Retribution'.
Let's take a look at what the movie is about in the way of plot or storyline.
The story revolves around former soldier Sam Norwood who takes a job as a prison officer when he returns from Iraq and as often is the case with ex-military, can't find a job and does not want to be restricted by your average nine to five or sitting behind a desk. He has offers from two close friends but knows the job is dodgy as it will be running drugs for a major player. While working in the prison he becomes embroiled in an on-going battle between the governor, who wants his prison run well and looks for any excuse to get rid of guards who do not play ball and a prison community that is a mish-mash of prisoners and guards on the make, involving drugs, money and bent screws looking the other way when need be.
Sam finds his feet as a guard but doesn't like what he sees. His home life and his work life become separate entities and as his life starts to spiral out of control, he has the choice of turning against his so-called colleagues or pitting himself against the lags on the higher rung of the prison underworld. Whatever Sam decides it will have ramifications that will shake the very foundation of the prison and he will be lucky to come out of it in one piece. One thing is for sure; Sam will learn that you can never please all parties, no matter what you try to do.
After the first twenty minutes to half an hour of this movie I felt like I was just drifting and I didn't feel like the character was going to mean enough for me to invest in it any further. When I feel this I always watch on as I feel I owe it to the people who have worked so hard in making it. I also hold onto a hope that it may improve. Thankfully, this movie did as I did what to know what the outcome would be.
Ok, it was slightly predictable but the performance of D'Arcy made it worth watching. I've seen more realistic portrayals of prisons in film but it wasn't a bad account and you can tell that the screenplay is tempered with some kind of reality.
The acting in the movie does give this film some credibility and the director Reg Traviss, does seem to know what he is doing after directing his first two efforts on a small budget too. Traviss was rumoured to be great friends with Amy Winehouse and there was even talk of marriage just before she died.
The atmosphere of the movie comes across pretty well and you really can see and feel that Sam is out of control and possibly heading towards some terrible outcome. The prison setting is realistic and passes for a prison without any really obvious mistakes, although I suppose if you really wanted to dissect every section of the movie then you would find some continuity errors, but that is true of most pictures and again, I'll leave that to the saddos that get off on that kind of thing.
Overall I thought it was quite a compelling movie with some interesting, underlying messages and morals. Not filled with action but contains violence and fights that you would expect in any prison movie without adding them purely for effect.
I would give it three out of five stars and recommend it for D' Arcy's performance.
Screwed is based on the expereinces of Ronnie Thompson, a prison guard who served in many different prisons over several years. When I first came across this I had no idea it was based on a book but now I know that I think it would be a very interesting read.
I decided to watch this with my partner the other evening. We do like to sit down once or twice a week and watch a film together otherwise we argue over the remote and end up spending all evening in different rooms as he wants to watch one thing and I want to watch something else! We found this on Netflix where it is still being shown so this is a film only review.
Sam is a serving soldier. He is coming to the end of his tour in Iraq and his wife is looking forward to his return as they have a newborn son who has yet to spend any real time with his Daddy. When Sam returns he decides that it is time for him to leave the army as now he has a baby he would like to be around consistently. He is struggling to find a replacement job but his wife suggests that he should go for interview at the local prison. He isn't keen but eventually agrees to go and he is accepted for the job.
Sam is understandably nervous and is worried about his first few weeks as he is quite sure that serving in the prison service will be quite different than the frontline in Iraq. Sadly, the inmates can sense this fear of Sams and decide they will push his buttons. During his first week Sam quickly learns that the prison system isn't quite what he thought it would be. He is shocked by some of the guards behaviour - openly abusing inmates when unnecessary, turning a blind eye to illegal activity and not doing their job as expected.
Initially Sam is opposed to this behaviour and he tries to question it without causing any friction between himself or the other guards. But soon Sam realises that the power involved with being a guard is empowering and he slowly begins to come round to the guards way of thinking. Will Sam stop or will he go too far?
The opening of the film really grabbed me as it starts with Sam still serving in Iraq so we are able to see exactly what he experienced in order for us to fully appreciate Sams situation. Of course, unless you have been there yourself it is unlikely that we will be in a position to understand Sams position and experience in its entirety but it allows us to get an accurate picture.
Danielle, Sams wife is a lovely young women and you cant help but immediately warm to her. She is a doting mother and is very excited about her husband returning home. She is kind, gentle and supportive and it is clear to see that she loves both her husband and son very much.
The plot flowed quickly and I was never left wondering when it was going to speed up however it wasn't so fast that I felt things were being missed out or were only being skimmed on when there should have been more detail. Instead, I thought that the film went into exactly the right amount of detail throughout and whilst some events were only touched on briefly this was fine because it allowed us to get an idea of the fuller picture without weighing down the film for too long.
The 'story' was captivating and I really enjoyed watching what would happen next. In addition to Sams working life in the prison there are also a few minor sub-plots which help to break up the prison scenes a little as they are quite intense at times.
The ending of the film was very good and although it did become a little predictable towards the end I still enjoyed watching it pan out. My partner was certain something else would happen but it didn't so in a way it was a surprise ending, for him at least.
The acting in the film is of an extremely high standard. I hadn't seen all of the actors on screen before but they all had wonderful talent and I thought that James D'Arcy who played Sam was exceptionally good as I imagine playing the part of Sam was quite difficult as both the role of soldier and prison guard must be quite hard to conquer and he had to do both however he did that with ease and I found it very simple to understand Sam and to understand how and why he felt or acted.
The film is a British film which I always see as an advantage when I turn on a film without knowing as I do like to see our homegrown talent and think that a lot of British films get overlooked in favour for our neighbours across the pond. I think it also tackles an important issue that faces our country right now with the growing number of serving soldiers coming back from a war zone and struggling to adjust to everyday life which again I can only imagine but I assume it is extremely difficult and also quite scary.
The film was released in 2011.
It was based on the real life story and written book by Ronnie Thompson.
The screenplay was written by Colin Butts.
It was directed by Reg Traviss.
It is rated an 18 in the UK which I believe is a fair rating due to the amount of violence, references to drugs and strong language used throughout the film.
It runs for 110 minutes.
It stars James D'Arcy, Noel Clarke, Frank Harper, Kate Magowen, Jamie Foreman, Doug Allen and Heather Peace.
IMDB users give it a rating of 5.3/10 (924 rates)
Both me and my partner really enjoyed this film and I felt that it was a real eye opener into the British prison system. I understand that the events portrayed cannot be taken word for word but because it is based on the memoirs of a prison guard I do feel that it gives a good insight into how things work. The plot was captivating and held my interest throughout and the cast we all wonderfully talented. I liked the ending and thought it was done well. I would definitely recommend this film but if you really dislike violence or strong language I would probably give it a miss.
Being a great fan of the Lionsgate productions, Screwed seemed to be a naturally sensible purchase after films such as Blitz and Killers. The film starts with the main character in Iraq, showing the audience his background in the war, despite only being a brief segment of the main story, it already helps the audience develop rapport with 'Sam' as it shows his friend being killed by rebel forces. Throughout the film, flashbacks occur to 'Sam' regarding the incident in Iraq, and working in a prison to make ends meet, these flashbacks become more recurrant and more of a problem. The story shows great detail when looking at working in a prison rather than just looking at the convicts angle. It creates a very exciting and empathetic story towards the main character and his family as it shows how the stresses of such a job can take their toll on daily life, coupled with the strains and memories of being a soldier. The cast are very distinguished in the british film industry, with names coming from films such as Kidulthood and Football Factory, it is not for the youngest of audiences, but does show a true likeness to the corrupt world of criminals and their wardens. It is a film I would definitely recommend, with the only downside, in my opinion being the sometimes slightly lax from a couple of the lesser focused actors. This does not detract from the overall story of the film however, and should not put people off watching such a great film.