Dog Pound (18)

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The Independent Culture

The ghost of Alan Clarke's Scum makes its presence felt in this lowering tale of a youth correctional facility in the American Midwest.

It follows the unenviable "progress" of three new arrivals at the penitentiary – Butch (Adam Butcher), Davis (Shane Kippel), and Angel (Mateo Morales) – where hostility seems almost a constituent of the air they breathe. The film focuses most intensely on Butch, a wiry loner with a hair-trigger temper; when he takes a savage beating at the hands of the ward bully (Taylor Poulin) the countdown begins to Butch's release from solitary and his equally vicious revenge. The director and co-writer Kim Chapiron doesn't flinch from the problems of institutionalised violence and the madness of locking up small-time offenders with the hardcore, yet he's not unsympathetic either to the prison staff faced with the job of managing a near-impossible system. The portrait of a guard (Lawrence Bayne) with anger issues of his own suggests that decency and humanity haven't been entirely scoured from the service. All the same, it's a tough watch, and a dispiriting one.