2010 Running time: 90 Certificate: 18 Rating: 4

Synopsis

Teenage lothario and drug dealer Davis (Shane Kippel), car thief Angel (Mateo Morales) and violent offender Butch (Adam Butcher) find themselves banged up in a grim Montana Youth Correctional Center. Targeted by the facilities resident bully boys, a cycle of violence and retribution ensues that may ruin the boys' chances of ever getting out. Raw and relentless prison drama from the director of French horror Sheitan.

Director

  • Kim Chapiron

Cast

  • Adam Butcher

  • Shane Kippel

  • Mateo Morales

  • Lawrence Bayne

Review

Recalling the likes of seminal British borstal drama Scum, this startling portrayal of the lives of a group of incarcerated teen offenders explores familiar material from a uniquely raw and candid perspective.

Confronted by a physically abusive probation officer, 17-year-old Butch (Butcher) fights back with a ferocity that lands him in the Enola Vale correctional facility in Montana.

Joining him there are fresh inmates Davis (Kippell), a cocky, womanising drug dealer and car jacker Angel (Morales). Presided over by tough but fair guard Goodyear (Bayne), the boys nevertheless become the targets of fearsome prison bully Banks (Taylor Poulin) and his cronies.

Banks, however, doesn't reckon on the inferno of rage that drives the habitually violent Butch and the situation soon escalates into a string of bloody incidents that will forever alter the fates of all concerned.

French director Chapiron's previous film was the memorably unpleasant horror Sheitan, but this US-set drama shows considerable maturity.

Shot with a gritty intimacy, Dog Pound perfectly captures the fear and dislocation experienced by the new inmates and the atmosphere of constant tension within the facility's walls, where an outbreak of violence is never far away.

Dealing with subject matter that is potentially sensationalist, including violence, drug abuse and male rape, Chapiron imbues his film with a rare amount of realism and integrity, fleshing out his protagonists into fascinating, complicated and sympathetic - if not entirely likeable - characters.

The cast of unknowns make a powerful ensemble, with Butcher utterly mesmerising as the fiercely intense Butch, his recent casting in Steven Spielberg's upcoming sci-fi series Falling Skies no doubt signalling the beginning of an interesting career.

Also notable is the director's use of non-professional actors, particularly Poulin, a real life young offender who is disturbingly credible as the menacing Banks.

While Chapiron's film sometimes follows familiar story beats from other prison movies it manages to avoid cliches for the most part, particularly in its portrayal of family man Goodyear, and the stresses and strains that the job place upon him.

Culminating in a frenzied prison riot that leads to a final scene of particular poignancy, Dog Pound is tough, confrontational and thought-provoking cinema that, like its protagonists, deserves to get a fair chance on its release.

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