Offender Movie Review
Tommy (Cole) is a young thug sent to prison for two years after punching a couple of cops. Once inside, he locks his eye on top goon Jake (Frank), and there's more than a hint of personal vendetta about it. Sure enough, in flashback we see a series of events during the summer 2011 London riots and some nastiness involving Tommy's pregnant parole-officer girlfriend Elise (Nixon). But now that he's inside, who can Tommy trust? His cellmate (Kirby)? A peace-loving Muslim (Oba)? Certainly not the dope-smoking guard (Dooley).
Over the course of the film, we see Tommy's journey from nice guy to tightly wound punk, complete with a Rocky-style montage as he puts some muscle tone on his skinny frame. But as he goes on his ill-planned vigilante spree, it's difficult to have much sympathy for him because Cole plays him as a hothead on a mission, lashing out violently at anyone who comes hear him. Even though we know that there's a more thoughtful, caring person inside, Tommy is determined to destroy his life.
If the filmmakers are trying to say that young-offenders prisons strip the humanity from their inmates, they have mangled the message badly, because Tommy turned mean before he gets there. More interestingly, the film notes that everyone has a choice about how they are going to respond to violence, as demonstrated by the Muslim characters whose lives have far more hope than the re-incarcerated monsters around them.
But the script and direction simply aren't up to exploring these subtle ideas.
Scalpello relies far too heavily on shaky-cam action and blurry-cam drama as he tries to ramp up the emotion, but it just leaves us unable to see what's going on. And he timidly shies away from the most telling moments, lingering instead on the rather hackneyed brutality. Combined with a somewhat slack structure, this leaves the solid actors unable to connect with the audience. And it leaves us a bit bored.