Rick Rosenthal directs Sean Penn, Esai Morales and Clancy Brown in this teen prison movie where a young tough becomes top dog in a nightmarish reform school.
Imagine an American Scum. It doesn’t completely convince to start. The High School gangland stuff doesn’t ring true. Yet once we are behind bars that shock nastiness ramps up but so does a certain lived-in air. What is fascinating is that even though Sean is the lead, he’s kinda outshone by the ensemble. Clancy Brown makes for an imposing second string bully. Alan Ruck and Ally Sheedy are notable in early roles. A dude called Eric Gurry, who didn’t have a big career, steals all his scenes as Penn’s troubled but strong willed Jewish cellmate. Reni Santoni makes his mark as the one decent youth worker in the prison. There’s rapes, shivings, escapes and systematic brutality… yet Bill Conti’s score is way too treacly to really match the action. That’s one particular mistake that holds this good little movie back.
Perfect Double Bill: Scum (1979)
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