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Scum

Year: 1979
Production Co: Berwick Street Productions
Director: Alan Clarke
Cast: Ray Winstone
I'm not sure quite what I expected in this story about life in a wayward boys' borstal. One thing I certainly didn't expect was a fresh-faced, youthful Ray Winstone who was as hard and scary as his grizzled, older self.

Unfortunately the film didn't really grab me. It seemed to be in three distinct segments, none of them terribly related to each other.

Young thug Carlin (Winstone) is bought to one of the brutal English boys' homes where abuse by warders and violence by fellow inmates are rife. When the self-styled top dog and his minions set their sights upon Carlin and set upon him, I expected it to be something like a nastier Shawshank Redemption, with Carlin trying to find his dignity and stay alive in the face of such terror.

But in a crackerjack scene involving a sock and few billiard balls, he quickly and violently supplants the bully to sit on top of the food chain. There it becomes apparent his position is one of some authority - even with the screws, so then it looked like it was going to be about the brutal commercial and extortion system he runs inside.

Then director Alan Clarke swings away to concentrate on the other inmates and Carlin's virtually left alone. The result is a film as raw and scary as you expect, but with a story that's both all over the place and whose structure just doesn't hold you in.

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