Reg Traviss’ prison caper refreshingly focuses on the ‘screws’ instead of the prisoners but despite his sincere attempts to side-step obvious clichés and bring some depth; he never fully manages to shake off neither the clichés or the shallow fall ground.
Reg Traviss’ prison caper refreshingly focuses
on the ‘screws’ instead of the prisoners but despite his sincere attempts to
side-step obvious clichés and bring some depth; he never fully manages to shake
off neither the clichés or the shallow fall ground.
Screwed starts off as a promising story based
on the autobiographical book by Ronnie Thompson about a prison warden’s
experience working in the day –to-day grind of Her Majesty’s prisons. After
experiencing the death of a friend during a tour of Afghanistan, back in
Blighty, ex-soldier Sam (James D ‘Arcy) struggles to find work to support his
wife and child. Running out of options Sam joins fictional HMP Romwell- filmed
in a Scarborough Victorian prison, but due to the thick London accents, we’ll
assume Romwell was intended to be a London ‘nick’. Soon, family man Sam is on a
downward trajectory to hell after struggling to adjust to the violent
atmosphere, wolf-pack mentality, daily injustices and drug use of life inside–
and we’re not just talking about the prisoners.
What starts out promising, soon turns into a
sort of déjà Vu. We’ve seen it all before, only better – the familiar secret
exchanges in the yard, rows in the canteen line, brutality in the showers, hidden
stashes in the laundry room and the faint smell of corruption in the air.
Nevertheless, Traviss didn’t miss a trick
while casting his actors. D’Arcy gives a convincing performance as fragile yet
defiantly fierce Sam and Frank Harper (Football Factory and Lock, Stock and Two
Smoking Barrels) does what he does best in the role of lap dance loving-gruff
speaking and general back-slapping king of the prison guards, Dino. You’ll also
find some other top acting talent in the form of Jamie Foreman, Kate Magowan,
Andrew Shim and Noel Clarke. Clarke is completely miscast as hard-faced top-dog
prisoner Truman and would have been better used elsewhere.
Several violent incidents later, Screwed suddenly
turns into a drug -hazed paranoid who-dunnit . Until finally, after slightly longer than necessary, its
conclusion is thrust upon the audience unexpectedly; not in a mouth-gaping
moment of clarity way but one that makes you ask: How did we get here? To get
to B from A, Traviss seems to have unnecessarily swung round C and D first.
We’re not sure if Traviss had a point to make
about her majesty’s prison service when he cooked up Screwed or if he is just
telling a slightly embellished story; just don’t expect to come away
enlightened or having seen anything new. Nevertheless, Traviss has got a
British film out there with some top British talent; and that in itself
deserves a round of applause.