Film review: CONVICT, from Built For Speed

New Australian low-budget film Convict is a very familiar tale of an almost innocent guy locked up in prison where he has to battle murderous inmates, sadistic guards and a corrupt warden.

The film’s writer and co-director George Basha stars as Ray, a decorated soldier recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq who, in a scene suspiciously reminiscent of Con Air,kills a revolting little scumbag rich kid who is harassing his girlfriend.  The rich guy’s dad just happens to be a mate of the sinister warden (David Field) who runs the prison where Ray is being sent ensuring that Ray is subjected to constant beatings and every prison movie cliché including a rather painful and intrusive encounter with a baton.  Ray also becomes a pawn in a gang war between Arabic and Aboriginal groups.

This is basically a low-budget Aussie take on The Shawshank Redemption complete with menacing gang rapists and a wise old lifer who mentors Ray.  Clichéd as it is, the film still manages to add a rugged Aussie flavour to the mix with its depictions of racial divisions and gang cultures in prison. This film had the potential to be a a strong addition to the prison film genre but cheap production values tend to let it down; some scenes look as they could have come from a 1980’s episode of Cop Shop.

The quality of the acting is also erratic with some wooden performances that recall 1970’s Ozploitation movies.  George Basha’s grumpy manner takes some time to warm to but his character’s essential decency, philosophical nature and resourcefulness eventually make him a likeable lead.  Convict often appears to be a vanity project for Basha, though, as he seems determined to show us how tough he is.  The standout performance comes from aboriginal actor Richard Green who is entirely believable as the hard-bitten but endearing older prisoner David. Like Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption he shows Ray that prison isn’t entirely devoid of humanity.  As the evil warden, David Field (who co-directed) is the same intense, scenery chomping creature he portrayed in those flavoured milk ads.

The filmmakers seemed unsure as to whether they wanted to make Convict a serious drama or an action flick as they take every opportunity to involve martial arts expert Ray in fight sequences.  As an action film it’s moderately successful as some of these fight scene are exciting and well-staged some, however, are appallingly unconvincing with huge lumbering guys missing Ray with punches by light years. 

This film is mostly about simplistic notions of good and evil and tough guys belting the crap out of each other but it briefly touches on vital issues such as the dehumanizing nature of prison life, racism in Australia and Australia’s questionable entry into the Iraq war.

Convict won’t be troubling the box office too much but it often belies its low budget origins to produce some memorable and confronting moments.

Nick’s rating: **1/2.

Genre: Drama.

Classification: MA15+.

Director(s): David Field and George Basha.

Release date: 21st Jan 2014.

Running time: 110 mins.


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