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The film is a semi-biographical story based on the experiences of former prison guard Ronnie Thompson who spent seven years working in some of the UK's most dangerous prisons. Based on Thompson's book of the same name, the project stars James D'Arcy (Master & Commander), Noel Clarke (Kidulthood), Frank Harper (The Football Factory), Jamie Foreman (Layer Cake), Andrew Shim (This Is England) and Kate Magowan (Stardust). The story revolves around former soldier Sam Norwood who takes a job as a prison officer when he returns from Iraq and becomes exposed to the underworld of prison culture - including corrupt guards and drug trafficking. Written by
The substance is there, but the execution fails to give this prison flick it's dues
STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning ** Sunday Night * Monday Morning
Sam Norwood (James D'Arcy), a former soldier, takes up a new job at a local prison to make ends meet. Already anxious at having to work among the undesirables he knows he'll come across, Sam is unprepared for the guards, headed by the burly Deano (Frank Harper) to emerge as just as corrupt, if not worse, than the convicts, as a drug dealing network emerges, while he also has to contend with a warden who seems to take the side of the inmates more and head con Truman (Noel Clarke) steps up the pressure to make Sam snap.
Based on a novel by former prison guard Ronnie Thompson, Screwed attempts to bring the grim horrors of prison life to the screen, as if it's a feat that hasn't been attempted before, taking in hostage situations, scaldings and pretty much everything bar gang rape. Somehow, this adaptation of his work has all the right ingredients in the pot, from the cast to the gritty, drained style. Somehow, though, the end impression really isn't as impressive as it could have been.
Somehow, an impressive cast, including D'Arcy, Clarke and Harper, and a supporting cast including Jamie Forman and Andrew Shim fail to shift a low key tone from the film, which comes off as an amateurish, messy, misguided effort. Better use of the cast probably could have raised it up a bar or two, but D' Arcy can't let his character rise above the typical raging ex soldier sort, while Harper and Forman are also stuck with cardboard prison officer roles. Clarke is impressive as ever, but takes too long to make his presence known and come alive, as well as the vicious villain he's portrayed suffering an ill judged, nonsensical ending that is at odds with everything we've seen through-out.
It's a bit of a let down, but it's not a complete failure. It remains an unflinchingly brutal depiction of the prison world, how the drama plays out remains intriguing and it retains a sense of style and atmosphere that is some compensation. But sadly not quite enough. **
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