Runtime: 106 Mins Rated: R What To Expect: Violent drama, no punches pulled, at all
There are some great British thrillers out there, hard and unforgiving, like Sexy Beast or, even better, Dead Man’s Shoes. Starred Up is cut from the same cloth – cold and hard, it treats sentimentality with utter contempt. Although it’s less a thriller and more a drama, it’s so damned authentic and brutal nonetheless. It’s a movie where talk is only uttered if it means something, and actions that mean just as much are simply shown as they happen, as you watch characters do things to develop the story (such as manufacture weapons) rather than sit through supernumerary conversation.
This movie sees a young offender, Eric Love (Jack O’Connell) imprisoned for 19 years for killing some pissant who sexually accosted his mother. The joint he is sent to is captained by his criminal lifer father, Neville Love (Ben Mendelsohn). Both are psychotics, but the younger of the family is at war with the world and all that even look at him in a suspect manner in prison. That presents problems for Love Sr, who knows that even with his protection, eventually his son’s behaviour will get him shanked. Meanwhile a prison anger management group try to wind down Love Jr, and a jealous Love Sr. doesn’t like that either.
O’Connell kinda reminds me on a young Ray Winstone, or maybe a Richard Burton. He is not one of those pretty boy actors who would’ve appeared in some metrosexual TV show slop like Hollyoaks. They wouldn’t have had him, too coarse. Speaking of Ray Winstone, this movie is quite similar to Scum in many ways, with institutional corruption and leadership (“I’m the daddy now!”) running up and down the back of this one. This movie would’ve failed if O’Connell wasn’t a seriously skillful and imposing actor. And he is exactly that, where he chews the whole fucking thing up, like Eric Bana did in Chopper. Compimenting that is the overall sense of misery and bleakness and realism, the film is riddled with danger and threats, you never know when the next fight or stabbing is coming. It doesn’t let you sit at ease.
Complaints here are only minor. It’s somewhat anti-climatic and the middle of the movie slows down and hasn’t much happening in it. But it’s a rough movie and its honesty and impressive acting are a refreshing break from dizzy Hollywood shit.