As teenage boys, these gritty prison dramas and brutal tales of youths fighting the system and getting banged up were all the rage in our VHS rental days! The grand daddy of these was the notorious savage borstal prison TV play and later, film Scum which starred Ray Winstone. A few other titles around the time were Made In Britain, McVicar and even the girls had a go in Scrubbers. Yeah we really were way too young to watch these films but I guess in a strange way that rather than make us into raging psychotic hoodlums, I think they put a terrifying fear into you that there’s no way you going to end up in the clink.
There was an American VHS cassette tape that exchanged hands with a similar theme, a young thug trying to survive through the system in a brutal juvenile detention center. That film was Bad Boys and starred a big cast of up and coming recognizable actors in first or early roles. Where it wasn’t as grim and vicious as Scum, it still packed a tough violent punch.
On the streets of Chicago, an optimistic crook always has his ear to the ground. This young Irish-American hoodlum, Mick O’Brien (Sean Penn) is always searching for the next big score, whether it’s smash and grabs or violent muggings. When a big opportunity arises in the shape of Puerto Rican Paco Moreno (Esai Morales), Mick’s eyes light up. Paco has acquired a suitcase full of drugs and this young gangster is gonna make a fortune from dealing around the block. Paco Moreno now has a target on his back.
Mick wants a piece of that action, all of it, turning up on the dark busy street with his balaclava covered face and an outstretched hand, packing a revolver. Shit goes down and unfortunate events take shape, resulting in Mick getting slammed up in young offenders prison . Mick isn’t all bad kid, he’s had it rough but he’s not completely stupid, somewhere inside that messed up head filled with fury and rage is a calling to do the right thing. He has a sweet girl in the form of JC (Ally Sheedy) and it tears him up to be away from her.
Tagline – Life Has Pushed Him Into A Corner… And He’s Comin’ Out Fighting.
Well after a warm and wet welcoming to the detention center, where the inmates can’t wait to intimidate and terrorise the new member of the community. We’ve all seen the films, we know what’s coming, spat at, bullied, intimidated and assigned all the degrading shit jobs. Mick is determined to do his time, get his head down and get back to JC, maybe he can turn his life around? But this tough place isn’t going to let you chill and ride it out, being the new boy doesn’t help.
Getting banged up in a two bedroom cell with Horowitz (Eric Gurry) a psychotic Jewish kid who’s an electronics wizard and knows the system. As long as you don’t wrong do him, he’s a perfect guy to have around. Always talking, wisecracking and pushes his luck as far as he can. With Horowitz around, the days are going to fly by.
So can Mick O’Brien get through the system? With ever mountaining problems, it’s going to be one tough and violent journey in this brutal place.
There’s some good debut spotting to be had whilst watching.
- Before he was skiving off school with his friend Ferris Bueller we get to see Mick’s crime pal Carl (Alan Ruck)
- Before she had to waste a Saturday on detention at Shermer school in John Hughes Breakfast Club, Mick’s girlfriend JC (Ally Sheedy) starts here.
- And would you believe before flipping Krabby Patties our Mr Krab had a Jheri curl mullet thing going on and went by the name Viking Lofgren (Clancy Brown)
A few observations.
- Directed by Rick Rosenthal and the best film he made imho.
- A Scum homage maybe? Coke cans in a pillow case rather than snooker balls in a sock or maybe inspired by Charles Bronson and a sock filled with coins.
- Eric Gurry’s portrayal of Horowitz brings some much needed light hearted entertainment with him but don’t cross him or you’ll know it.
- The soundtrack alongside Bill Conti score is a strong mix of soul and rock tunes playing throughout of various ghettoblasters in the jail.
- Esai Morales who plays Paco has featured in some great but short lived TV series over the years, from playing Captain William Adama, from Battlestar Galactica, Dad Joseph Adama in prequel series Caprica, to the Major in Jericho and he pops up in the hilarious The Brink. All cancelled in their prime.
This will be one I think lots would of seen already but if not I very much recommend it for a quiet night in filled with brooding juvenile delinquents terrorising each other!
Think I will do a few more 80’s ones this week before jumping back into the 70’s. Have a flip back to see what I choose if you fancy it. Keep watching those square screens. All the best… Mikey Wolf