Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5
USA, 1983. EMI Films, Solofilm. Screenplay by Richard Di Lello. Cinematography by Bruce Surtees, Donald E. Thorin. Produced by Robert H. Solo. Music by Bill Conti. Production Design by J. Michael Riva. Costume Design by Mickey Antonetti, Jay Hurley. Film Editing by Antony Gibbs.
What at first seems like just another early eighties excuse for hyperglamourized juvenile delinquency turns out to be a highly entertaining, thought-provoking and downright riveting prison drama. A very young Sean Penn gets into serious trouble when he attempts to get in the way of a drug deal and ends up accidentally killing a young boy with his car. He is sent to a juvenile detention centre where he survives the violence by facing off with two of the strongest personalities in there, while outside the clink his girlfriend (Ally Sheedy) is vulnerable to revenge from the older brother of Penn’s victim (Esai Morales).
Not a moment is wasted in this exceptionally well-directed film that is also notable for strong performances from the entire cast. While somewhat guilty of prettifying its subject matter (though how could this possibly be helped? Movies are by their very nature glamorous under any circumstances), it also provokes questions about class, society, and the method by which these correctional institutions are run: do we want to help the people we send there, or are we sweeping our problems into a broom closet?