This is a British film from director Reg Travis who also brought us the rather good `Joy Division' and `Psychosis'. He has taken this from the book by Ronnie Thompson - himself a former prison guard and this does not pull its' punches.
It is about ex-marine and war veteran Sam (James D'Arcy `Master and Commander' and `WE') he has left the army and is in the employment market. After his welcoming home party two of his old mates offer him a bit on the side in the wholesale narcotics (illegal) business. He politely declines as he is a father and husband etc. His long suffering wife points him in the direction of Her Majesty's Prison Service. Whilst he is at first reluctant, he soon decides there is little else he is qualified for and well it does come with holidays and a pension, so what can go wrong?
The answer to that last one is not long in coming. The fictional prison is rife with mistrust, illegal booze, drugs and a very sinister Guv'nor. There is also a divide in the officers or `screws' as they are deridingly referred to. He gets taken under the wing of veteran officer Deano, played with brilliant South London aplomb by Frank Harper. He explains that the Guv is on the side of the inmates as he is a careerist guvnor and hence, not their friend. He also finds out that the prisoners run the wing at least one guy does, Truman (Noel Clarke `Kidulthood','Centurion' and `Doctor Who'). He is a nasty piece of work and seems to know an awful lot more about Sam then Sam knows about him.
It doesn't take too long for things to kick off, and as Sam's home life hits the rocks, so his work life begins to spiral out of control.
There have been a few good prison dramas of late, like `Cell211', `Dog Pound' (a Canadian `Scum') and `R- Hit First Hit Hardest', but I think this is probably the best of the bunch.
I had thought this was going to be a typical prison drama, but it is ruddy excellent, with a great musical score, acting of the highest calibre and violence that seemed realistic and none gratuitous. It has more than enough twists loads of profanity and a believable story. I think that Reg Travis has made a brilliant and original film and I sincerely hope it gets the attention it richly deserves- highly recommended.
If ever there was a wasted opportunity to add another Great British prison movie to the roster headed by Alan Clarke's incendiary Scum, then Screwed is it. The credentials were promising. Based on the real life memoirs of Ronnie Thompson, an ex squaddie who post a tough tour of duty joined the prison service and apparently found another kind of war on the inside, and the adaptation to screen is headed by Brit thespian bad boys Noel Clarke, Frankie Harper and James D'Arcy. Yet what unfolds for the duration of the pic is the standard raft of clichés we movie fans have seen time and time again.
There's some early promise that maybe this will have something to say as regards a returning war veteran, hints that the screenplay will have caustic asides on the British penal system - and the problems inherent within our prisons, but it never delivers, instead choosing to macho everything up in such a fanciful fashion you have to wonder exactly what is actually based on facts? There's also the small matter of the fact the whole picture plays as very similar to Phil Davis' excellent 1995 football hooligan movie, i.d. Only there it was an undercover policeman getting in feral with his work, here it's a prison officer doing likewise. There's even a sex scene that is lifted straight from Davis' movie.
Having not read Thompson's book, "Screwed: The Truth About Life As A Prison officer", something which I intend to correct in the immediate future, I can't vouch for the veracity of this adaptation to screen. However, the film feels empty, like it's following a guide book written by the British press on how they "think" our prisons operate, fuelling the horror fire of what filmic adaptations over the decades have led us to believe are regular occurrences. Only Thompson knows the truth, both of his experiences and of how his book has been translated on screen, but all things considered it's a lazy same old same old film. 5/10