Andy Summers’s review published on Letterboxd:
As a respectable middle-aged man prison movies have never really appealed, especially those set in British institutions. The reality of prison life is something I'd definitely choose to ignore if given the chance, but every now and again a film gets such stellar reviews that I brave the underbelly of society and dip my foot behind bars.
British set prison dramas don't come much more violent that the likes of Scum or Bronson, but Starred Up has just what those movies had and more, a central performance so captivating you'd think you were locked up with him. Jack O'Connell is going to be a huge star. Playing the part of Eric Love, the explosively violent young offender "starred up" into an adult prison, he quickly sets about confronting everyone. Other cons, prison officers, anyone who gets in his way will be dealt with in uncompromising fashion, and that's what this film delivers in spades. It's unflinching in its portrayal of someone with a uncontrollable rage inside them who's a product of his environment. To add fuel to the fire however is a fellow prisoner, his father, and it doesn't take long before trouble ignites like a guy on Bonfire Night.
O'Connell is well supported here by Aussie actor Ben Mendelsohn who continues his upward trajectory courtesy of another commanding performance. Rupert Friend also impresses as the one man who tries to reach out to Eric in the role of a voluntary therapist attempting to help him control his anger. This is violent and at times a hard watch. Tension filled from the off, the magnetic, unhinged turn from O'Connell stands out among the hard-hitting dialogue and prison stereotypes that are done particularly well. David McKenzie really has delivered something special here. He's made interesting films before, I really liked Hallam Foe, and Perfect Sense really was something imaginatively different, but this is a step up. Hope he continues to stay away from Hollywood after his one disaster there, but O'Connell is certainly the one who'll take the majority of the plaudits here.