Stir (1980) [Review]

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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 RoverThe PropositionMystery 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.

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