A young man seeks justice for the brutal beating of his girlfriend and death of unborn child in this pretty good and violent prison film.
Tommy has just assaulted a police officer and is sent to a reformatory for his actions. However, his actions are actually clear. Shortly before his incarceration, Tommy was a construction worker living the good life as he was about to be a father. His girlfriend Elise, a probation officer, is far along in her pregnancy. When Elise attempts to talk to repeat offender Jake, she is met with hostility on behalf of him and his gang. That night, Elise witnesses a robbery by four masked men and sees them murder someone. The gang proceeds to beat her badly, forcing her in the hospital. She loses the baby in the midst of it all and leaves Tommy in shame.
Angered, Tommy knows Jake is in the prison along with gang members Angelface, Mason, and Lucky. Mason, however, has left Jake and formed an alliance with Ali, the leader of a small Muslim group who just want peace in the prison. Tommy’s cellmate is the timid Harry and does eventually befriend Mason. Meanwhile, Tommy plots his revenge and starts with Essay, a rival prisoner and eventually begins to go after Angelface while he is confronting Harry. However, it is not going to be easy for Tommy as Jake has some pull in the prison, especially with senior guard Nash, who is plotting to start a drug running business with the gang leader.
Prison revenge films are an exciting genre to watch. This British film seems to be in the vein of films like Scum (1979) that revolves around violence and wrongdoings in the British Young Offenders facility. However, the central plot revolves around one man’s quest for revenge for the brutal beating of his girlfriend and loss of unborn child. However, the subplots mixed in are essential to the overall story as they all connect and point to one particular person.
Joe Cole is great to watch as Tommy, our protagonist. From the opening, it may seem like he is a thug on the verge of getting into trouble. However, as the film showcases flashbacks, we learn the truth about Tommy’s true intentions. This is one of those key things where the film will abruptly switch between flashback and present day and if you miss even one minute, it may seem confusing. As for the character of Tommy, he seems like a character study to go from a mild-mannered young man to a violent fighter who seeks what he calls “justice” for the events that changed his life forever.
English Frank may seem to come off funny at times but he is definitely menacing as Jake, the gang leader who pretty serves as the “big boss” of the prison as everything, even the subplot of internal strife within the ranks of the authority, point to Jake as he is responsible. Tyson Oba gets kudos as well as former gangster Mason, who longs to change his life for the sake of his infant daughter and must choose between his one-time loyalties to Jake and helping Tommy out in his mission of revenge. Malachi Kirby is pretty good as Harry, the timid cellmate of Tommy who soon becomes one of his greatest allies while Shaun Dooley is nearly as menacing and arrogant as Frank as corrupt prison guard Nash, who uses his power to help Jake and goes as far as having such an ego trip that he must put down fellow guards as well as the governor himself.
The violence is pretty brutal at times, definitely not faint for the heart at times. This is notable in the beating of Elise, played by Kimberley Nixon. When one sees the result of her beatdown, it is very disheartening to watch and the flashbacks go downhill in terms of mood from there. The scene that reveals the loss of the baby is very heartbreaking and the final nail in the coffin with Elise leaving Tommy shows the beginning of Tommy’s transition into the titular “offender” we will root for throughout the film.
Offender is one of the better prison films of today’s era. A great transitional performance from Joe Cole as well as the haunting performance from English Frank definitely drives this film very well. Highly recommended but be aware, some of the action is pretty violent and not for the feint of heart.
WFG RATING: B+
A Revolver RDT Films production. Director: Ron Scalpello. Producers: Nick Taussig and Paul Van Carter. Writer: Paul Van Carter. Cinematography: Richard Mott. Editing: Johnny Rayner.
Cast: Joe Cole, English Frank, Kimberley Nixon, Shaun Dooley, Tyson Oba, David Ajala, Heider Ali, Jacob Anderson, Vas Blackwood, G. Frsh, Scorcher, Mark Harris, Ruth Gemmell, Aymen Hamdouchi, Daniel Green, Malachi Kirby.