Star – Jack O’Connell
Genre – Drama > Crime> Prison
Run Time – 106 minutes
Certificate – 18
Country – U.K
Awards – 16 Wins & 19 Nominations
Amazon – £2.99 DVD (Blue Ray £4.99)
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Starred Up is one of those films in everyone critics top 50 movies on 2015 and so deserves our time. It’s a British prison drama starring chav actor Jack McConnell, who was looking nailed on to be the next Danny Dyer, until Angeline Jolie cast him in the lead in the big Hollywood Movie Unbreakable. I’m guessing Danny Dyers American accent isn’t as good as Jacks. Like Dyer, McConnell is the read deal as far as the characters he plays and comes from the same streets her represents in his movies. From a working-class family in Derbyshire to an Irish navy father and local Burton girl he was soon in trouble for going off the rails when his football career didn’t take off, almost packed off to juve for petty crime when he had to do a one year Youth Offenders detention order course, the final step before a young offenders lock up.
The film is based on screenwriter Jonathan Asser's experiences working as a voluntary therapist at HM Prison Wandsworth, a role that’s unpaid and at the persons own risk. O’Connell sounds like the people he worked with and was cast almost immediately after seeing him in The Tower, a pretty silly crime flick version of Attack the Block but without the aliens. ‘Starred Up’ refers to a kid in juvenile prison who is moved directly to a ‘Category A’ adult prison when he comes of age (19) for continuing offending in juve. It’s a status symbol to get the title for young cons but makes them targets in tense macho prison hierarchies.
• Jack O'Connell as Eric Love
• Ben Mendelsohn as Neville Love
• Rupert Friend as Oliver Baumer
• Sam Spruell as Deputy Governor Hayes
• Anthony Welsh as Hassan
• David Ajala as Tyrone
• Peter Ferdinando as Dennis Spencer
• Raphael Sowole as Jago
• Gilly Gilchrist as Principal Officer Scott
• Duncan Airlie James as Officer White
• Gershwyn Eustache Jnr as Des
• Ashley Chin as Ryan
• David Avery as Ashley
• Tommy McDonnell as Officer Self
• Frederick Schmidt as Officer Gentry
• Ian Beattie as Officer Johnson
• Sian Breckin as Governor Cardew
19-year-old angry and hyper Eric Love (Jack O'Connell) arrives for his first day in adult prison. He knows the rules of prison and put in a single cell as he has a reputation, constructing a makeshift weapon to protect himself from the attacks he know will come from people he has never met because he will piss them off. When he accidentally knocks a fellow black inmate out (David Avery) when he mistakes a friendly incursion into his cell as an attack, his reputation earns the attention of the smarmy Deputy Governor Mr Hayes (Sam Spruell), earning a spell in isolation.
Once he has made it known to the prison landing and wardens he is not to be messed with we learn his dad Neville (Ben Mendelsohn) is also in the nick and bestowed with status and protection. Dad wants to look out for his boy but even he can’t handle Eric, earning the unwanted attention of wing hardman Ryan (Ashley Chin) from his effort so far.
Someone who thinks he may be able to calm the kid is Oliver Baumer (Rupert Friend), a volunteer therapist who runs a group in the prison of mostly angry young black men. Nev thinks it would be a good idea if he goes along and a far better role model than his old man, who has been hiding secrets from his son. But Governor Cardew (Sian Breckin) has made it quite clear that any more indiscretions from Eric that he will be off the group and locked down 24/7, just as the therapy was beginning to work.
Eric: ‘I'm just saying. Said this therapy goes well and it changes my life and I rehabilitate. And then you lay it on for the next geezer and it works for him, and the next. And everything's sweet yeah? Crime rates starts to come down, police got less people to nick, courts got less people to convict.
Eric: Pretty soon you're out of a job governor….’
With 346 F**K expletives and 28 C**t it’s that kind of Brit movie. The story line, of what there is very little, is mostly standard prison stag rutting, irritated by off key characterizations of the incumbents. I am not convinced by any of them. O’Connell is pretty much the white baseball cap chav cliché and unrealistically brave and articulate for the bordering psychotic he plays. His dads character Neville makes little sense either and not fully filled out as far as the emotional connection with his son goes, which is what the film is supposed to be about. That is new to see a father and son in jail together and his both pointing out each others weaknesses to hurt each other as they seek macho status.
The film stands on O’Connell’s performance and he is good and you can’t take your eyes off him, s suitably angry and punches out the best lines like a snarling prize fighter. His antics in the prison are not so creditable though and I felt the film needed more realism as far as the prison dynamics go. The sadistic governor straight from Shawshank was the weakest link in the film and clearly the screenplay writer basing his own experiences on that of the therapist councilor, all a bit self indulgent. It was brave of the director in actually representing who is in Britain’s Category A jails and lots of ethic black and Muslim faces but even the racial interactions felt tempered down to not offend anyone, Jonathan Asser screenplay perhaps based on how he wants to see prison life after his experiences than it actually is. It was very liberal. In real life its complete anarchy with under-staffing and insane criminals attacking guards all the time and the idea of Porridge sitcom characters like Grouchy running the wing absolutely absurd.
On the whole it’s a solid prison drama that delivers an edge on top of normal prison clichés and tense enough throughout for the viewer to get involved. It’s violent but in a measured way and reassures us that the serious criminals should be kept in jail so not to offend against us. With an 80% recidivism rate and 50% in the first year after release no amount of therapy and rehabilitation will change angry working-class kids from being angry working-class kids. Violence is the currency of their social class and the only thing that can make them equal with everyone else. O’Connell’s character represents how fearful we are of the angry cocky chav and he will always win, until he is too old for it, the runt of the litter coming up ready to replace him.
No music score
Imdb.com – 7.4/10.0 (28,324votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 99 % critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 81% critic’s approval
San Francisco –‘Director David Mackenzie has empathy for the characters, but also knows how to ratchet up the tension and make the scene of mayhem pack a wallop’.
Times UK –‘Take one teenager. Add raw testosterone. Arm with unquenchable, unreasoning anger. Lock in pressure-cooker cell. Unleash. Roll camera’.
Washington Post –‘"Starred Up" manages to be sympathetic, not only because of O'Connell's galvanizing turn, but also Asser and director David Mackenzie's unwavering commitment to portraying his character with as much compassion as brutal honesty’.
Film Comment –‘O'Connell-also impressive as a stranded soldier in the forthcoming '71-gives Starred Up the muscle and above all the emotional continuity that holds it together’.
The Mail –‘Starred Up is unflinchingly ferocious and you won't be able to look away’.
NY Times –‘Gritty, intense, unflinching and taut. An emotional punch to the gut. Jack O'Connell delivers a bravura, star-making performance. It's the best prison drama since A Prophet’.
Cinelougue.com –‘The violence is brutal but never exploitative, and the rendering of hard-core prison life is heartbreaking without feeling totally hopeless’.
The Odeon is the only dedicated cinema in Maidenhead though an arts centre at Borden Farm just outside it does also show some films and Maidenhead is an easy drive to several other cinemas in nearby towns. The Odeon is located in Kings Street. This is in the heart of the town. I would say about three minutes walk would get you to the train station. There is no ability to pull up outside because the roads are either pedestrian only or too heavy with traffic. Luckily the Nicholson's shopping centre just across the way has a multi storey carpark attached to it. This is free to park in on a Sunday.
My visit was on a Saturday. I have always liked late screenings and have them available in my home patch. I was quite surprised then to see that the Saturday closing time for this cinema according to its website was only 9.30pm. So it was an afternoon showing for us in the end. The cinema seemed busy in the communal areas but my screening was only half full. I have no complaints about the sound or picture quality. As usual my tall long legged partner could have done with more legroom but width wise we found the seats satisfactory.
There are 8 full sized screens and two mini ones. All have some wheelchair places. We paid slightly more for our tickets than at my nearest cinema but were meeting friends who found it more convenient to meet in Maidenhead so we didn't mind.
Foodwise there is a Costa coffee on the ground floor. This was used by the public not going to the cinema too and this meant there were few seats left inside or out. Upstairs near the screens is a Ben and Jerrys. Next to the cinema there is a Pizza Hut.
As well as standard films the Odeon shows 3D ones and special live screenings of Opera and theatre shows. I would say it us an OK cinema with no reasons not to recommend it. I would use again if it was the most convenient one for me.
I don't know anything about Maidenhead to be honest, but I'm pretty sure this is the only cinema there. I was away staying at me girlfriends Nan's last week, and we wanted to go to the cinema. We went swimming first, which is why we were at Maidenhead in the first place.
Anyway, we got there at about midday, and couldn't wait to sit down and enjoy our movie... At the time we weren't one hundred percent sure what we wanted to see... I wanted to see the new Batman film, however my girlfriend hadn't seen any of the other Batman films and wanted to see them before spending £7 on seeing the newest one. So we decided we'd see that another time. We both wanted see Wall-E, and had both heard pretty good things about it - and we'd both been laughing at the films trailer the night before when we saw it on TV! So we'd finally decided what film we wanted to see.
From the outside, the cinema doesn't seem as impressive or big compared to the Vue cinema I usually go to in Cambridge. We walked through the doors, to find a large, virtually empty room. There was a really old arcade machine to the right, and to the left a small counter where you're meant to buy your tickets. There was no food or drink to be seen, and at the far end of the room was a few doors with numbers above them - obviously being the screen numbers. So at this point, we were both pretty unimpressed by what we saw. However, both wanting to see a movie after our morning swim, we looked up at the two plasma screens above the counter to find out what time our movie was being shown. Guess what? They weren't on! We saw a few other groups of people looking through a booklet with ODEON plastered on the front, so I walked up to the side of the counter and grabbed one for myself. I thought it was a bit silly how the small magazines with all the times and dates in were at the front of the queue.
I opened up the booklet, and at the top of the front page it stated: 'What's on at Maidenhead Cinema (August 2008):'. We were finally getting somewhere! Until of course, we started reading down the list. The list was quite long, probably had twenty odd films on it, and beside them were little boxes, some of which had little green ticks in them - these ticks state whether or not this particular movie is showing at Maidenhead Odeon. Out of all the films on this list, which included the likes of The Dark Knight, The Mummy, Mamma Mia, Wall-E, Kung Fu Panda and Hellboy II, about five different movies were selected. All of these films being the not so popular ones such as: Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and a few others. Although we wouldn't mind seeing them films, but as none of these received reviews good as some of the others, we didn't want to fork out £7 a seat to see them.
To make matters worse, the floors were dirty, there were no toilets in sight and well, it's just a really bad cinema! We never saw a movie that day, but we are going to see the new Mummy film later on this week, at a real cinema which sells popcorn!
For those that are crazy enough to want to visit such a poor 'cinema', here's the address and website:
0871 22 44 007
42-44 King Street