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Customer Review

on 15 November 2003
Overall, I was disappointed with this film. Scum is above average but by no means exceptional. The acting is good most of the time, but the casting is not in some quite serious situations. For example, the Governor is such a stupid and strict stereotype, he just doesn't come accross as believable. Phil Daniels seems humbled and somewhat uncomfortable playing a slimy henchman to the initial 'daddy' (who himself doesn't make any presense). Ray Winstone is good but I don't think his performance was as exceptional as some people seem to think (which has more to do with the weak part of Carlin than Winstone's acting).
The film is shocking, and it is bleak. But the script seems very weak in places and overall the film fails to have any powerful meaning and comes accross as shallow and simple. Phil Daniels threatens someone for "no more of your poxy lip" very unconvincingly at one point and its a problem for similar lines which are supposed to be menacing throughout the film. The gay rape scene was unexpected, unusual and daringly filmed but what followed it was annyoingly predictable (but effectively filmed).
The film just seemed to lack any deep characterisation at all, something which films about suffering seem to need to make the viewer care. The sad thing is the film seemed to make a half-hearted effort to be deeper, with moments of characterising people like Archer and Winstone but these are never carried through. Not one character leaves any lasting impression.
The film doesn't seem realistic because bits of it are absurd and accompanied by wicked pantomime grins and poor scripting. The setting of the film is interesting and some of the camerawork imaginative and engrossing and it isn't awful by any measure. But its no more than good and not something I would go out of my way to see. This is a real shame since I hoped I had 'discovered' for my collection a great british film when I saw it through the recommendations.
My advice is to check out If.... (1969) or Quadrophenia (1979), both of which are superb and more accomplished and satisfying than Scum. Another that comes to mind is the in my view faultless BBC film "Out of Control" which was made in 2001 and set in a Young Offenders institution. It does most of what Scum does plus a great deal more and I get the impression it is what Scum was trying to achieve. "Out of Control" is sadly not availble as far as I know unless you tape it when it occasionally comes up in Satellite schedules.
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