out of Five
Running time: 91
Impressively directed, superbly acted teen prison drama that packs a powerful emotional punch.
What's it all about?
Directed by French director Kim Chapiron, Dog Pound is inspired by Alan Clarke's 1979 borstal classic Scum (it is, to all intents and purposes, a remake) and stars Adam Butcher as Butch, a hot-tempered teen offender who's transferred to the Enola Vale facility in Montana after a provoked attack on a guard elsewhere. Butch soon bonds with fellow newbies Angel (Mateo Morales) and ladies man Davis (Adam Kippel) and all three are quickly targeted for abuse by vicious top dog inmate Banks (Taylor Poulin).
After mounting a brutal revenge attack on Banks (in the equivalent of Scum's 'Who's the daddy now?' scene), Butch quickly muscles in on the prison drug trade and rises to the top of the prison hierarchy. However, Banks's henchmen are merely biding their time for a revenge attack of their own.
Adam Butcher is terrific as Butch, delivering an intensely charismatic performance that is simultaneously charming and chilling, as you can sense the violence simmering away underneath his dark good looks. There's also strong support from Kippel, Morales and Poulin, while Dewshane Williams makes a brief impression as Frank, an inmate failing an anger management class.
Chapiron cast many of the supporting actors (including Poulin) from real life street gangs, which lends a palpable air of authenticity, particularly during the inevitable riot scene. The violence is handled extremely well throughout – it's sickening and shocking but you correctly sense that kill or be killed is the only way to survive in that brutal environment.
That said, the excellent script repeatedly reminds you that these are just children, most notably when one of the characters pleads to be able to call his mother. The script is also extremely downbeat, pointing out that in this environment even the film's kindest character (Lawrence Bayne as sympathetic guard Goodyear) is capable of erupting into violence. The film is also impressively shot, courtesy of Andre Chemetoff's sharp-edged, documentary-like cinematography – the climactic riot scene is particularly stunning.
By turns chilling, shocking and heartbreaking, Dog Pound is an impressively directed, sharply written prison drama that packs a powerful emotional punch. Highly recommended.