Gritty British prison drama of the week: Screwed

Thursday June 2nd 2011

Screwed is a gritty British prison drama, and you can tell because its title sequence is written out entirely in a stencil typeface that seems to have been degraded after years of abuse. Every word is full of cracks and scratches, and you start to wonder why they didn’t buy in some new letters rather than getting some kind of job-lot down Brixton Market. I mean, I know the budget wouldn’t stretch to a fancy new set of Trajans or anything, but some nice cheery Cooper Blacks couldn’t go amiss, surely? Look at the difference it could make:

They don’t know the box office dollars they’re missing.

Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Ronnie Thompson, Screwed tells the story of Sam, a former soldier who returns from Iraq and finds work as a prison guard, or as they’re known ‘on the inside’, screw. [Right about now you’re seeing what they’ve done there with the title.] Though initially apprehensive, Sam soon learns his way around the bureaucracy, violence and dodgy dealings of prison life, and before long he’s confiscating contraband and lamping nonces with the best of them.

And for a while, this approach is surprisingly successful. I don’t think I’d ever seen a prison film framed from the guards’ point of view before, and staging such familiar scenes from this strikingly new perspective works very much to the film’s advantage. Unfortunately, the filmmakers seem to lose their bottle about 45 minutes in and suddenly you’re confronted with immeasurably boring marriage-breakdown stuff, tedious prison conspiracies and one of the most pointless sex scenes in British cinema history (and that’s really saying something).

But still, why listen to me when Garry Bushell contends that the film…

You’d think they’d bother to spell his name right if they are going to quote him on the poster.

In closing, I’d urge to you to seek out the first half hour of Screwed if you fancy some sub-A Prophet prison procedural business. Otherwise, get on with your life.

Oh, and one last thing: where does the insult ‘fraggle’ come from? Is it cockney rhyming slang? Fraggle rock… cock? Please confirm or deny on Twitter.