Film review: Starred Up (7 out of 10)

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If there’s one movie style the British do well on the big and small screen it’s gritty drama, with a small largely unknown cast and often set in a tight claustrophobic atmosphere.

Starred Up is the latest of these, set entirely in a men’s prison with its own set of tough no-nonsense rules.

Jack O'Connell and Ben Mendelsohnn in Starred Up

Jack O'Connell and Ben Mendelsohnn in Starred Up

Having said that, one of the main leads is actually an Aussie, Ben Mendelsohnn.

He played a complete psycho in the excellent movie Animal Kingdom (2010) and was also in Killing Them Softly with Brad Pitt a couple of years ago.

In this latest role he plays Neville, a long-term prisoner.

His son Eric (Jack O’Connell) turns up, having been too violent and uncontrollable for a young offenders unit.

So he has been Starred Up - transferred to an adult prison.

The relationship between the two is strained to say the least, with dad too over protective and the son angry over being abandoned by his father.

Within this enclosed prison community we have an overlord, a rather dodgy Governor and a volunteer psychotherapist battling a system that doesn’t want him.

But the glue that holds the film together is the father-son one and both actors excel.

Mendelsohn’s conflict of wanting to be a dad in an environment that despises any emotion apart from hate is deeply felt.

And the sheer anger emanating from the son is like a firework permanently ready to explode.

The extreme language and violence have given this film a firm 18 certificate but there are brief moments of dark humour to lighten the mood.

The ending seems a little too obvious but this is a film more about the acting skills.

Mendelsohn has further cemented his reputation, while O’Connell is certainly a star in the making. with a number of decent projects lined up.

Starred Up is an intense look at extreme emotions which will find a limited audience but is well worth the effort.

Film details: Starred Up (18) 106mins

Director: David Mackenzie

Starring: Jack O’Connell, Ben Mendelsohn, Rupert Friend

Screening courtesy of Cineworld Crawley