Jack O’Connell Weekend – This is England (2006) Movie Review

Director: Shane Meadows

Writer: Shane Meadows (Screenplay)

Starring: Thomas Turgoose, Stephen Graham, Jo Hartley, Andrew Shim, Vicky McClure, Joseph Gilgun, Rosamund Hanson

Plot: A young boy becomes friends with a gang of skinheads. Friends soon become like family, and relationships will be pushed to the very limit.

Tagline – Run with the crowd, stand alone, you decide.

Runtime: 1 Hour 41 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Gritty, Hard Hitting Reality Check

Story: This is England starts as young boy Shaun (Turgoose) is struggling with the death of his father in conflict in 1983, he gets picked on at school, he doesn’t fit in, until a group of skinheads led by Woody (Gilgun) welcoming him into their circle of friends for an afternoon of trouble, while his mother Cynth (Hartley) isn’t completely happy with this group, she does see him being happy for the first time in years.

When the other leader of the group Combo (Graham) gets out of prisons, he brings a more aggressive nature to what the gang wants to be, despite Woody, just wanting it to be friends hanging out.

Thoughts on This is England

Characters – Shaun is a 12-year-old boy that has suffered with the loss of his own father’s death in the Falklands, he gets bullied by the other school kids and has always just been left feeling alone in the world. The only people that let him in are Woody and the gang of skin heads who just want to hang out and soon gets drawn into a darker side by the more aggressive leaders of the gang. Combo is the older leader of the gang that doesn’t hold back with his hatred to other races in his country, he will fight anybody who goes again his gang too, being a horrendous role model for Shaun. Cynth is the mother of Shaun, she wants to see her son enjoying his life more but is getting worried about his own life choices. Woody is the member of the skin head gang that invites Shaun into the gang, he wants to help him fight back against the bullies, by offering somebody to hang out with.

PerformancesThomas Turgoose in the leading role is fantastic as we see just how he is dealing with his own grief in all the wrong places. Stephen Graham steals the show with his hyper aggressive character, while the rest of the cast do make us feel like we are watching mates hanging out.

StoryThe story here follows a 12-year-old boy that ends up joining a skinhead gang after he struggles to find a way to deal with the grief in his life from his father’s death. The story does tackle just how difficult grief could be for the children of the victims of war, with Shaun having his school friends pick on him because of his father’s death, which in todays, not the 80s wouldn’t be acceptable in anyway, with everybody being more supportive. The idea of joining the gang and just how the gang soon starts to consume his life, effecting his behaviour shows how being given the wrong lines to follow will not make life any easier. We do see how the world has changed since the 80s and how the skinhead culture should never be forced onto anybody.

CrimeThe crime world we get placed into here it, involves the violent behaviour of the skinhead gangs to anybody that doesn’t fit into their profile.

SettingsThe film is set in the midlands of the UK which does show the neighbours that would have been struggling in the 1980s.

Scene of the Movie – The first day out with the gang.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – 12-year-old dating an 18-year-old seems weird.

Final Thoughts This film does show the violence being pushed onto people if they can’t deal with grief when they have nobody else in their lives.

Overall: Violent Drama.

Jack O’Connell Weekend – Starred Up (2013) Movie Review

Director: David Mackenzie

Writer: Jonathan Asser (Screenplay)

Starring: Jack O’Connell, Ben Mendelsohn, Rupert Friend, Sam Spruell

Plot: Eric Love, 19, is locked up in prison. On first day he assaults another inmate and several guards. He’s offered group therapy and his dad, an inmate as well, tries to talk sense into him. Can he be rehabilitated?

Tagline – We’re all different on the inside

Runtime: 1 Hour 46 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Gritty and Hard Hitting

Story: Starred Up starts as Eric (O’Connell) first arrives in prison, put in a single room being classed as high risk, he knows the tricks of the trade to get the things he needs that aren’t given out, it doesn’t take long before he gets into trouble, assaulting a fellow inmate and guards who try to restrain him.

Oliver Baumer (Friend) does see that Eric needs help to control his violence and offers to help him improve himself to stand a chance of getting back into society, which becomes more difficult with Eric’s father Neville (Mendelsohn) being somebody that does seem to run the prison.

Thoughts on Starred Up

Characters – Eric Love has been transferred from a young offenders prison to an adult one, he is violent with a short temper that can see him get into more trouble than he is already in, in this prison his distant father looks down on his decisions, while being offered a chance to learn to calm down in therapy, he is at the crossroads, where he must learn where to continue his violent ways or learn to become a better person and make up for his mistakes. Neville is his father and is one of the men that runs the prison from the inside, he wants to see his son clean up his act, but not get involved with any gang, he is racist in nature and wants to learn more about the therapy his son is on. Oliver is a man that is trying to help the angrier inmates by trying to get them to discuss their problems in group instead of seeing them fight for the sake of it, he is the one that will stick up for Eric.

PerformancesJack O’Connell gives a breakthrough performance here one that shows his ability to play the prisoner with problems, with glimpses of what he could have more of a serious character. Ben Mendelsohn and Rupert Friend both shine in the supporting roles too.

StoryThe story follows a young offender being sent to an adult prison where he finds himself needing to navigate a new set of gangs that are looking to have control of the prison and it isn’t long before he gets himself in trouble. This story does show us just how difficult the system can be for the people of Eric’s age who never knew better and will continue to make the mistakes of his father. The prison setting shows us how the story acts along the idea that people will act violent for no reason here, though it would have been interesting to see just what Eric did to get himself locked up in the first place. Deep down this is about a father son relationship that gets to push the true boundaries of everything they never had.

CrimeThe crime side of the film shows us just how the violence of criminals will only continue in prison because they are all acting like animals.

SettingsThe film is set in the prison, it shows how the men there will do anything for the position of power over the rest and how if they don’t fight back they will just get killed.

Scene of the Movie – Final incident.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Not learning enough about the crimes in the first place.

Final Thoughts This is a hard hitting prison drama that focuses more on the father son relationship rather than what they did in the first place.

Overall: Hard Hitting.

Under Suspicion (2000) Movie Review

Director: Stephen Hopkins

Writer: Tom Provost, W. Peter Iliff (Screenplay) Claude Miller, Jean Herman, Michel Audiard/John Wainwright (Original Screenplay/Book)

Starring: Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Monica Bellucci, Nydia Caro, Miguel Angel Suarez, Pablo Cunqueiro

Plot: A wealthy attorney in San Juan comes to the police station for “10 min.” of follow up questions to finding a 12-year old girl’s body in a park. Another young girl was also raped and murdered weeks earlier and the evidence points to him.

Tagline – A hidden past, a secret life, witness or suspect, guilty or innocent?

Runtime: 1 Hour 50 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Tense

Story: Under Suspicion starts as Henry Hearst (Hackman) agrees to go into see Captain Victor Benezet (Freeman) in a follow up to discovering a dead body on his daily run, only part of Henry’s story doesn’t add up. As Victor and Detective Felix Owen (Jane) start investigating Henry’s story more, they start to see him being the prime suspect.

Henry’s position of power as an attorney makes the case more difficult, as any false story would ruin both Henry and Victor, with each conversation offering new clues to the truth about what really happened to the murdered young girls.

Thoughts on Under Suspicion

Characters – Henry Hearst is wealthy attorney, married to a young wife, respected in the neighbourhood, he discovers a dead body of a young girl, whose story doesn’t add up, making him the prime suspect, he must give details about his personal life, which sees that his life isn’t what everyone else believes, having secrets that aren’t going to help his side of the case, always claiming his innocence to the truth. Captain Victor Benezet has worked with Henry in the past, they have been through cases for years and he knows that if the investigation comes out, he will handle things with more care, only to need to play both sides of Henry, his friend and the cop after a killer. Detective Felix Owen is the younger investigator, he wants the case solved, he will step over the line at time, needing to be kept in place by Victor, while needing to push the boundaries. Chantal Hearst is the younger wife of Henry, she has become distant from him, with his actions driving her away, she could answer a few of the big questions, but doesn’t want to bring her family down, even though she has a grudge about what Henry might have done before.

PerformancesWe do have two of Hollywood’s heavyweights in the leading roles, Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman, who both show why they are on top of most best actor lists, they carry the film with their performances, while being joined by Thomas Jane and Monica Bellucci giving very strong supporting performances too.

StoryThe story here follows what is simply a follow up set of questions about discovering a dead, soon turns into a full blown investigation into the man that could have been behind the murders. This is a story about people on power being able to play this card to try and get out of questioning, though we do balance the guilty or not guilty side of the story very well, showing us who could be behind the crime. The constant switch in stories does help us question everything we are seeing, showing that trust is what will always be the most difficult thing to maintain. The do only see how one man is being questioned to new limits and how this pressure could create differences in stories given too.

CrimeThe crime is two murders of young girls, they need to be solved fast with the police needing to focus on all sides of the story, making sure everything is covered before the killer could strike again.

SettingsThe film is set on an island, which shows us just how the characters are living in luxury away from the big cities.

Scene of the Movie – Henry and Felix questioning.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Not enough investigating into the murders seems to be happening, only the questioning.

Final Thoughts This is a tense thriller that does keep us on the edge of our seat throughout, as we are left to wonder just what is really happened, being carried by powerhouse performances.

Overall: Twist Filled Thriller.

Signature Entertainment presents Under Suspicion on Digital HD July 31 and on Amazon Prime August 3rd

Arkansas (2020) Movie Review

Director: Clark Duke

Writer: Andrew Boonkrong (Screenplay) John Brandon (Novel)

Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Vince Vaughn, Clark Duke, John Malkovich, Michael Kenneth Williams, Vivica A Fox

Plot: Kyle and Swin live by the orders of an Arkansas-based drug kingpin named Frog, whom they’ve never met. But when a deal goes horribly wrong, the consequences are deadly.

Tagline – Kyle and Swin are working their way to the top…but the top has other plans.

Runtime: 1 Hour 57 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Smooth & Calm

Story: Arkansas starts when small town drug deal Kyle (Hemsworth) getting a promotion, which takes him to Arkansas to work for Frog (Vaughn) a man he has never met, with connection is Swin (Duke), putting him on the first transportation mission, where they learn who is going to be their handler, Bright (Malkovich).

When Kyle and Swin decide to try and move up the ranks, they find themselves being hunted down by Frog, needing to use their new desire to keep them on the right side of the ruthless drug lord.

Thoughts on Arkansas

Characters – Kyle is the small town drug dealer that has been waiting for his chance in the big time, which he gets, working with Swin, rising up the ranks, he will get the dirty work done, he is the smarter of the two, knowing how to cover up the tracks and not just run from the situation. Swin is the man that gives Kyle the ins and outs of the area, he does talk more, he makes more reckless decisions. Frog is the ruthless drug lord that nobody knows who he truly is, he is the man that both the men are working for, while he is waiting for his chance to get his own back on the people who stole from him. Bright is the ranger who is the connection between Frog and the guys, he lets the guys know he is in control, giving the threats if they ever try and cross the line.

PerformancesLiam Hemsworth does give one of his better performances here, he seems to have matured to new levels here. Vince Vaughn is always entertaining in the villainous role, he works very well through this film, with Clark Duke not only starring, but directing this film, stepping away from the comedy that has held him back before. John Malkovich gets to be over the top like only he could, being a joy to watch in this film.

StoryThe story here follows two young drug dealers that decide to try and make a move up the ladder against a man they don’t know, seeing how things don’t get as messed as they imagined it would, but needing to solve the problems produced. This does look at how the drug world operates in the country area in America, it doesn’t making it an all out drug war, it plays out more tactical in the approach to dealing with what is going on between the two sides. The story is also told in chapter form, which does give great time to let the characters develop through the film.

CrimeThe crime side of the film follows two men getting deeper into the drug world in the open country area, this isn’t gangsters, just men looking to make money and run a business for themselves.

SettingsThe film uses the country setting very well to show how relaxed the world is, it takes away the full blown guns out approach other drug lord movies include.

Scene of the Movie – The first meeting between the three.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Certain side stories don’t need to be here.

Final Thoughts This is an interesting new spin on the drug dealers and drug lords movies, everything is a lot calmer on the approach, which does show us just how the world would operate away from the big city.

Overall: Relaxed Drug Lord Film.

Lionsgate UK presents southern-fried crime thriller Arkansas on Digital Download 13 July & DVD 20 July

Keanu Reeves Weekend – The Brotherhood of Justice (1986) Movie Review

Director: Charles Braverman

Writer: Noah Jubelirer, Jeffrey Bloom (Screenplay)

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Lori Loughlin, Keifer Sutherland, Joe Spano, Darren Dalton, Evan Mirand, Don Michael Paul, Billy Zane

Plot: A group of high school students, led by a rich boy Derek, is sick of school violence and decides to become underground vigilantes named “Brotherhood of Justice”. It starts with the idea of “watching people”, but things quickly get out of control. “Brotherhood of Justice” turns out to be another gang of violence. Derek wants to stop it but it is too late, so he takes responsibility for it and gives himself to the law. 

Tagline – They were the best kids in the neighborhood … until they decided it was time to fight back. 

Runtime: 1 Hour 37 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: 80s Gang Warfare

Story: The Brotherhood of Justice starts as we meet the students are the school, we have wealthy Derek (Reeves) who people look up to mostly because of his wealth, his girlfriend Christie (Loughlin) who must work when not around school and the quiet Victor (Sutherland), the school has suffered a night of vandalism which has seen the increasing tension believe it has come from the minorities within the area.

Deciding to fight back Derek joins a gang known as the Brotherhood of Justice after his teacher Bob (Spano) pushes the students to stand up for themselves against the people that are causing problems who want to use their new gang to fightback causing their own havoc against what they see as the problem within the area.

Thoughts on The Brotherhood of Justice

Characters – Derek comes from a rich family, he has always been given anything he wants, never having to earn a thing in his life, seeing his brother fall victim of the drugs in town, he joins a local gang that want to mess and get revenge on people they believe are creating problems for the local community, which sees him pushing his girlfriend away as he tries to remain in control of the gang and their actions. Christie is the girlfriend of Derek’s she must work hard to get her a chance at college, she has less time to spend with Derek and notice the change coming from within him becoming closer to a classmate. Victor is the loner from school, he works hard in and out of school and will stand up for anybody who is in trouble, including the local gang. Bob is the teacher that pushes the students into trying to stand up for the problems happening at the school, he ends up cause the Brotherhood’s action without saying doing it.

PerformancesKeanu Reeves in the leading role does show us that he can have the leadership appeal as an actor, while he doesn’t do everything we know he is capable of now, it is nice to see where he has come from, Kiefer Sutherland does play the loner character well, one that is older than his character in the mindset. Lori Loughlin doesn’t get enough screen time for which character should be getting more time.

StoryThe story here follows a group of school student that decide to start their own gang in an attempt to get back at the people causing troubles in the school, only for their actions to be everything they are trying to stop. This is an interesting look at how student might try to stop the problems in their own school and how the power it gives can turn somebody into a violent person, seeing how the gang is getting gout of control. This is a story that could never happen now, though it could help if people start dealing with the problems without violence in the first place.

Action/CrimeThe action side of the film revolves around the action of the gang, which is weak fights and a random car chase. This does also show how the crime side of the story that is unfolding.

SettingsThe film does show us the school and the local hangouts for the students, showing how they are using everyday position to fight back.

Scene of the Movie – Dealing with the dealer.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – The attacks on people for no reason.

Final Thoughts This is an interesting look at the minds of students that want a change if they can be pushed into stopping problems in their world and just how far they might end up going.

Overall: School life gone too far.