Dog Pound

Dog Pound

**1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

While watching the latest from Sheitan helmer Kim Chapiron at Tribeca Film Festival - where he was, for reasons I am at a loss to understand, named best new narrative filmmaker - I couldn't shake a feeling of deja vu.

Initially, I put it down to the fact that this drama concerning the hard knock lives of three kids in a young offenders' institute sticks like a limpet to every dated cliche in the book, from cell beat downs from their fellow cons to wardens who turn a blind eye and the one who just wants to help but is forced into inaction. But, as the credits rolled, I realised there was another reason why it felt so dated and derivative - it is, in fact, heavily based on the far superior Alan Clarke drama Scum.


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The remake sees the action moved from the world of a British borstal in the Seventies to a present day youth correctional facility in Montana, where Angel (Mateo Morales), Davis (Shane Kippel) and Butch (Adam Butcher) are banged up for car theft, drug dealing and violence against a warden respectively. Keeping their noses clean, however, seems highly unlikely as they fall prety to bullying thug Banks (Taylor Poulin), whose violent outbursts are not something the short-fused Butch finds easy to take on the chin.

Back in 1979, borstals in Britain genuinely were hotbeds of this sort of inmate against inmate violence but it's difficult to believe that this is still the case in US jails today. Would it really be possible to beat down someone without any camera catching it and the perpetrator being brought to justice or, for that matter, for it not to become incredibly obvious who was instigating the crimes, if all around him look as though they've had their heads put in a blender?

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Although the action is somewhat unlikely, the way that Chapiron shoots it certainly has an authentic ring. He uses the clinical greys of the inside of the institution to good effect and gets some viscerally intense performances out of his main players, some of whom have had real-life experience of being on the wrong side of the law. There's no doubting the seriousness of the point Chapiron is trying to make either regarding the way that young criminals can become trapped in a spiral of reoffending, but by pushing all the action into barely believable melodrama, his argument is weakened. Instead of this feeling like a reflection of life behind bars, there's a nagging sense of going through the traditional 'prison drama' motions, with every box being checked in exactly the right order. Do yourself a favour and rent Scum on DVD instead.

Reviewed on: 27 Aug 2010
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Three teenagers find life is tough on the inside in this remake of Alan Clarke's Scum.
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Festivals:

Tribeca 2010

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