Borrowing the characters from ‘Porridge’ and dropping them into the plot of ‘The Shawshank Redemption’, first-timer Rupert Wyatt has crafted a derivative but pacey tale of life on the inside. Old lag Frank Kelly (a superb, pensive Brian Cox) has a reason to escape, as do many of his fellow inmates, including fresh faced new blood Lacey (Dominic Cooper), dreadlocked meth-chemist Batista (Seu Jorge) and street-fighting master thief Lenny (an unrecognisably muscular Joseph Fiennes). In most cases that reason is psychotic, Grouty-esque chokey chief Rizza, played with quiet authority by Damian Lewis.
Up to and including a well-timed final twist, there’s little here we’ve not seen before, from attempted rape at knifepoint to a messy, redemptive splash through the sewers. But it’s nicely constructed and sharply directed by Wyatt, who makes the most of a rock-bottom budget, instilling his stock locations with a dense and pervasive sense of cloying claustrophobia. Both the headline cast and the writing-directing team could and will do better, but as an attention-grabbing calling card this is perfectly serviceable fare.