In their second effort, writer-director duo David Field (Chopper) and George Basha (The Combination), transport familiar concerns of race, identity and notions of honour to the prison yard in a new Australian feature. Basha stars as war hero-turned-convict Ray Francis, who is locked up for an accidental murder when trying to defend his fiancee’s honour. The victim’s father is a man with connections and he strikes a deal with the prison warden (Field) to make Ray’s time in prison hell on earth. Cue the intimidation, brutality, gang politics and corruption that define life on the inside. Winners and losers abound but justice does not. This is Ray’s personal conflict throughout the film. He struggles to understand this war, as opposed to the ones he’s used to fighting in the army.
Throughout Convict, the violence is frequent and reactions to it heartless; the language is filthy; and the prison is immense, nearly swallowing the screen in some shots, as much as it swallows up inmates and spits them back out. The striking visuals and quality photographic direction are a welcome feature of the film. However, ultimately, this is a story with few surprises. Ray’s struggle is of course a noble one but it’s been explored many times elsewhere. Convict sticks too closely to the script and, as a result, it feels simply like an Australian version of ‘the prison drama’ rather than a distinct contribution to this genre.
This review was originally published by The Music magazine in January 2014.