Starred Up

Posted by Joel Copling on August 31, 2014

Eric Love (Jack O'Connell in the first of two performances this year that are likely to put him on several maps as a go-to star) is a contradiction. He's been "starred up," which in U.K. prison terminology means that his behavior in a juvenile detention facility has been severe enough to land him in a confinement situation with those of age. His attitude is one of general disinterest in what happens around him, a stony-faced nonchalance even in the face of brutality from other inmates or the prison guards. His demeanor is that of a too-cool-for-school "gangsta"-type, which makes sense, considering he seems to be the byproduct of years of the foster-care system. His biological father, Neville (Ben Mendelsohn), is also in this prison. Eric isn't pleased to see him.

"Starred Up" is a raw, profane prison movie in the tradition of recent ones such as 2008's "Hunger," 2009's "Bronson," and 2010's "A Prophet" (though admittedly not as notable as any of them), memorable more for its performances and characters than for the admittedly pretty familiar, occasionally contrived narrative, which follows Eric through a series of encounters--with Neville, with a therapist named Oliver Baumer (Rupert Friend, very strong), with the leader of the prison inmates Dennis (Peter Ferdinando), and with the guards, led by the cunning Dep. Gov. Haynes (Sam Spruell)--that will determine in which direction Eric's life is headed. Still, O'Connell and, in his own way, Friend act together as the bruised heart of this brutal insight into a cold, calculated penitentiary.

Film Information

Jack O'Connell (Eric Love), Ben Mendelsohn (Neville Love), Rupert Friend (Oliver Baumer), Sam Spruell (Dep. Gov. Haynes), Peter Ferdinando (Dennis Spencer), Anthony Welsh (Hassan), David Ajala (Tyrone), Raphael Sowole (Jago).

Directed by David Mackenzie and written by Jonathan Asser.

No MPAA rating.

106 minutes.

Released in select cities on August 27, 2014.