Film Review: Convict is hard hitting
Melissa Oey checks out a prison film which looks at heteromasculinity and multiculturalism in Australia:
Convict revolves around its protagonist, Ray (George Basha) and his struggle to retain the moralistic identity he established to escape decisions made as a misguided youth, while serving time in a prison where corruption and cruelty reign supreme. Despite its macho undertones (unsurprising given it was produced by ‘Boyz from the Hood Films’), the film manages to run like a PSA against heteromasculinty for a heteromasculine audience, and I mean this in the best possible way.
While the opening sequence is a little trite, as a whole, it is somewhat illuminating. Convict explores the contradictions of multicultural society – to whom do we belong? Can our identity ever really be our own?
If ‘hard-hitting prison films’ were a genre simplified to checklist, Convict would be commended for ticking all the boxes (yes, that includes a bit of sodomy). What saves it from being dismissed as entirely cliché is the quality of performances by each member of the supporting cast. They’re Australian, m8, and you’d be so proud.
Although exploring the frustrations of prison life doesn’t require many strong plot points, the tension between its well-acted characters is high enough to keep you on edge, wondering who you should or should not get invested in (spoiler: there is no shortage of fatalities in this one). And, with political protests and illegitimate force being the flavour of the year, it was also nice that Convict touched on what are, in reality, complex relations of authority – not all cops are pigs, even though many of us have (numerous) compelling reasons to believe otherwise.
Besides the plot point regarding his relationship with his assumed ‘blood brothers’, I liked that Ray per se, could have been any ‘colour’ – here, racial stereotyping was not at play and dogmatism in any context was ridiculed for its hypocrisy. At the same time, it is precisely this which made the characterisation of Kelly (Millie Rose Heywood) – Ray’s fiancé and the only woman in the film – particularly abrasive. To be diplomatic on the matter, the gender stereotyping that her entire persona is composed of is offensive to the feminist within me, and plain nonsensical to the rest.
While this one-dimensional portrayal of women detracts from what can be said about the overall quality of this production, the fact remains that Convict is what it promises to be – a ‘hard-hitting prison film’. It also speaks to the tensions I have with claiming a national or even ethnic identity, which I think could resonate at large with, at the least, second generation immigrant Aussies – a largely under-represented yet substantial demographic of Australia (shame Neighbours, shame) and for that it is commendable.
Watch for good times and social commentary on the state of multiculturalism in Australia and some insight into the pitfalls of heteromasculinity. Don’t expect to come out confident about women’s worth in the world, and don’t expect surprises – just go along for the ride.
Review by Melissa Oey. Convict is in selected cinemas January 21st.