Starred Up (2013)

Director: David Mackenzie
Starring: Jack O’Connell, Ben Mendelsohn, Rupert Friend .UK. 1h 43m

There is something very bold and solid about starred up the acting is on point the choreography of the violence is brilliant a dynamic but the special jenesequa is just how realistic the film is but this is probably due to the whole project being a brilliant screenplay written by a former corrections psychologist.

Brutal and Brilliant

Starred up beings as a story of a young man Eric Love (O’Connell) forcing his way up through the grimy underside of the prison world but this youngster is displaying way too much cunning and wit about him, he’s more than dangerous, he’s potentially deadly, hence why he’s starred up. Despite a lot of the rumours being Starred up has nothing to do with bumming or other sexual acts, it’s simply a teenager who is so out of control that they get set among adults to receive some “proper prison schooling”.

After a turbulent run through on his first day which sees him forging shanks and making his first attack with minimal effort the movie slowly develops into a somewhat angsty yin/yang struggle between a father and son and the boys gentle rehabilitation through group therapy, often reset on the arrival of his father, yep the boys father is also in the prison. It seems Love got starred up to be with his dad in prison, but for what reason the movie doesn’t really elude to, maybe just to be with him, or maybe just to prove a point, what point we may never know.

The film is pretty slick, sometimes the group therapy seems to be a step up from Dog Pound (2010) at other times it’s just a bowl of super hot porridge. The lead ?? has a dazzling history of being a hard nut youth with remarkable roles under his belly in such British classics as the disturbing but classy Harry Brown (2009) and gut wrenching Eden Lake (2008) and I still have a bet on that he could still be the next Bond, you know it makes sense right!

Between scenes of oiling himself up and taking on armed guards like Bronson (2008) and having a lovely cup of tea you can see the cogs are turning in his pretty little head, always looking for the upper hand and being ever vigilant for other people’s weaknesses and he struts around the prison trying to assert his dominance.

Underneath this hard outer shell he is strangely human, and somewhat vulnerable. For so much of the film he’s totally out of control and violent, sparking responses from armed guard, upper management and even creepy and highly influential prisoners who seem to have a bit of power and control within the prison all taking note of this hot headed stud. But this not so mindless thug has a crazy turbulent bond with this dad which starts to scratch in a backstory of love being returned in the form of a fist in the family home, but the boys idol is a king of cunts but at times he’s painted as a father who’s trying to do his best but between their social interactions sparks fly, as the boy searching for a fathers love and lashes out, is this just some mega tantrum or is this a fucking massive “I’ll show you Pa” moment.

Rupert Friend seems to be playing the ole of the author, how much of his role really matches the illustrious writer I do wonder, but I feel this vital character is a bit dull, but it just seems to be his acting “style” from his early roles in films such as Outlaw (2007) where he wasn’t much more than a rich boy with a pretty (scared) face. His most explosive roll in Hitman: Agent 47 (2015) didn’t really match the devilish Timothy Olyphant, and I’m yet to see him really explode on the screen… and with so many brilliant characters giving deep performances and offering some scary dynamic action it should have been his time to step up. Especially among the members of his group such as the role model Tyrone (Ajala) and Des (Eustache) who help coach the boy with keeping his temper, work with him in the gym and back him up in fights rather than fighting with him, totally remarkable roles.

“You’ve got a bit of do do in your hair bro”

The ending is a meltdown of the characters and the social construct of the prison, there was never a real good guy in the film, even the volunteer therapy session leader has his fault but they are so minor it makes him a hero, but even the management aren’t squeamish about getting their hands dirty in his hole but it leaves a huge question about what will happen next as a certain bond is broken at least for another sentence.

Rating: 8/10

R: Dog Pound (2010), Scrubbers (1982), Scum (1979), Hunger (2008), A Prophet (2009)
L: 50 Amazing Prison films
5s: Jack O’Connell, Rupert Friend,

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