If you have seen most of Jack O’Connell’s work before, then don’t expect much different from this.
Review (with Spoilers)
As noted a few times in other reviews, when some of the main Skins characters are in something I check it out. But while Kathryn Prescott has seemingly changed things up with her role on Finding Carter, unfortunately, both Jack O’Connell and Kaya Scodelario seem to be content playing the same character over and over again. However, with that said, being that O’Connell is quite good at playing a delinquent, does that makeup for him being typecasted?
Characters & Story
Eric (Jack O’Connell) has just landed himself in prison and with every action and reaction, it truly feels you are watching Cook after what happened in Skins: Rise. For between Eric having Cook’s temper, daddy issues, and a desire to do as he pleases without taking much note of the consequence, it really does feel like an extension of the Skins universe. Just minus any of the other characters of the series showing up.
Consider this praise a double-edged sword, for I truly saw this as a Skins spin-off. The good part about that is it quickly gets you into the film because while Eric isn’t Cook, they are so similar that this damn near seems like this movie is fan fiction adapted into a movie. And, as always, O’Connell plays a good bad boy who has charm and an uncontrollable amount of attitude. But, he does have a good supporting cast to both reign him in and challenge him. There is his father in the picture Neville (Ben Mendelsohn) who really challenges O’Connell in terms of showing the complexity of a father/son bond in which the dad, Neville, has been away since Eric was a kid. And then there are all the fellow inmates who all lend a hand in trying to support Eric’s survival, which is hard since he makes enemies quickly out of the administrators. Especially Deputy Governor Hayes (Sam Spruell) who seems to want the boy’s life for embarrassing him on multiple occasions.
But, on the other end of that praise comes the fact this prison film doesn’t feel like it does anything that great. Not to say it is in anyway bad, but it has everything you expect. Men fighting and using makeshift weapons to hurt each other, an unyielding administrative staff who are more into the idea of using force over talking, and then you got this sympathetic counselor Oliver (Rupert Friend) who comes off as someone who is written in probably to help develop Eric, but in reality he is just the token character in prison movies who is supposed to guide the protagonist as far as they can. Thing is though, the Eric we meet in the beginning and end isn’t too different. The only thing that changes is his relationship with his father. And while it is nice to see them talk and try to work their issues, there to me wasn’t anything really engaging here which would make you think, “Wow what a performance.”
And lastly, for me, as an American used to BBC accents, I found the various mix of accents just so hard to understand without subtitles. To the point, I felt I was more assuming what happened than actually knowing. So, if you aren’t well adjusted to the various accents of the UK you may have trouble.
Overall: TV Viewing
While I recognize this film has obtained multiple award nominations and has won some awards, I honestly feel this film is simply adequate. O’Connell continues to play the bad boy with a difficult upbringing who lashes out with violence, and the story doesn’t really help you see him as anything but Cook. As for the rest of the cast, honestly, between the accents, and their stories not being all that intriguing, I really didn’t connect with them or felt invested. So with the only thing worth praising is this feeling like a Cook spin-off, I feel this at best is a “TV Viewing” type film. One which certainly may show how comfortable O’Connell is in these type of roles, but certainly doesn’t expand the perception of his ability as an actor. From a viewer’s standpoint anyway.