For those that have been following this blog for a while, will know that I have been working my way through Australian cinema for some time now. Animal Kingdom, Snowtown, Romper Stomper, Chopper, The Rover, The Proposition, Mystery Road and the excellent Wake in Fright to name a few. A substantial amount of those recommendations come from Matt over at Sensible Dancehall Australia, and with his recent foray into Prison Films, this film ‘Stir’ was suggested as a ‘must watch’ because ‘there are some amazing fucking lines in it’.
He wasn’t wrong, you would have a field day trying to pick a few quotes out. Most of the movie is highly quotable. But there is a lot more to it. It is a no frills approach to prison drama, without overdoing it on the violence or making a big deal about any particular one incident. This film is not one incident, it is an amalgamation of events culminating in a full scale riot. You can be sure of the films authenticity, the screenplay written by an actual Bathurst inmate Bob Jewson, directed by a first time director, it is rare we get to see this level of naturalism in a prison film.
The events and treatment are shocking, and the fact that they actually happened emphasises that. However, it is more than just shock value; there are some excellent performances from both prisoners and guards, many separate story-lines that make up the single narrative, and among the bleakness it still manages to inject some dark humour. It really is a well rounded film. Whether you are fans of the classics like Cool Hand Luke, or enjoyed the brilliant Starred Up, then this film is essential viewing.