Offender (R15)

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The ViewQueenstown Review

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Review byMatthew Turner9/08/2012

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 102 mins

Offender is an engaging, impressively staged revenge drama with a striking central performance from newcomer Joe Cole and a strong support cast, though it's let down a little by an inconsistent script that fails to exploit the most interesting element of the story.

What's it all about?
Directed by Ron Scalpello, Offender is set in the aftermath of the London riots and stars Joe Cole as Tommy, a decent young man who deliberately gets himself sent to a young offenders' institution in order to exact revenge on vicious thugs Jake (English Frank) and Mason (Tyson Oba), who beat up his pregnant parole officer girlfriend Elise (Kimberley Nixon), causing her to lose the baby and end their relationship. Once inside, Tommy has his work cut out for him and he quickly realises he's going to need to forge alliances with some fellow inmates if he's going to carry out his plan. But who to trust? And can he manage to stay on the right side of corrupt prison officer Nash (Shaun Dooley)?

The Good
Newcomer Joe Cole builds on the promise he showed in TV's Skins with a terrific lead performance as Tommy, handling the transition from nice guy to chilling psychopath (and hitting rock bottom along the way) in convincing fashion. He also has a striking, almost hypnotic screen presence that should see him in good stead for future roles. The supporting cast are equally good with strong turns from Nixon, Dooley and Oba in particular, while English Frank has a good line in boggle-eyed psychos, even if his line delivery isn't quite as scary as he thinks it is.

In addition, the violent scenes are well handled (a scrap in the shower is particularly good) and the film does a good job of recreating the London riots in the flashback sequences. On top of that, the script deserves points for its commendable treatment of a subplot whereby Mason converts to Islam; this is seen as a hopeful and ultimately redemptive decision, which is somewhat unexpected in this sort of film.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is that the script is a little inconsistent with Tommy's character: having plotted and worked towards his revenge with a seemingly unflappable, laser-focused cool, he appears volatile, unpredictable and barely keeping it together once inside, and the plot never addresses this. Similarly, Nash's separate storyline detracts a large amount of focus from what's going on with Tommy, while the script also fails to understand and exploit the tragedy of a good man being driven to revenge and what that does to him. The ending, without giving anything away, seems to strike entirely the wrong note.

Worth seeing?
This is an engagingly gritty British revenge drama that's worth seeing for a superb central performance from Joe Cole, though it never approaches the heights of its most obvious influence, Alan Clarke's Scum.

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Content updated: 21/02/2017 15:50

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