Friday, 24 June 2011


To be “ghosted” is to be secretly transferred from one prison to another. Is a move which incurs suspicion as to why the transfer occurred – was it for the prisoner’s safety, indicating vulnerability, or because they were an informer?

The term is also one of the few new things perhaps learnt from this British prison drama from cinematographer turned director Craig Vivieros, whose script relies heavily upon such well-worn prison film clichés as the vulnerable young inmate; the not-really homosexual wing boss; and the weights room work out, shower room male rape and courtyard blade shanking scenes.

Paul (Martin Compston, Sweet Sixteen) has just been transferred from a Young Offenders institute having become too old to stay there. Career-criminal and manipulative wing boss Clay (Craig Parkinson) takes a dubious interest in him. Older prisoner Jack (John Lynch), who is nearing the end of his sentence is persuaded by his own mentor Ahmed (Art Malik, who also served as executive producer) to take Paul under his wing. This obviously threatens Clay’s and puts them on collision course. Clay’s problem is that Jack is not afraid of him, while Jack's is that he's afraid of what he knows he could do to Clay if he ever lost it.

Jack explains that there are three rules to prison life. First, never ask or take anything from anybody – a prohibition Paul has already been forced to violate by Clay. Second, never lie, since you will always be found out. Third, never ask someone what they are in for.

As Jack and Paul's surrogate father/son relationship develops – Paul never knew his father, while Jack’s son died in a tragic accident during his time inside – they breach the second and third commandments, leading to a powerful denouement.

Again, however, while the actor’s performances and Vivieros’s visual sense are hard to fault in these scenes, the writing is decidedly less successful. While Ahmed muses on whether Jack and Paul have been brought together by coincidence or fate, the viewer may very well feel their real connection is contrived, improbable. There's nothing wrong with this as such, just that it does not easily fit with the kind of gritty, realistic approach Vivieros otherwise goes for.

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