Later this year, young British actor Jack O'Connell has the potential to breakout in a big way when he takes on the lead role as real-life hero Louis Zamperini in the Angelina Jolie directed Oscar-bait film, Unbroken. But before seeing him in the noble prestige film in December, O'Connell gets down and dirty in David Mackenzie's excellent prison drama Starred Up. Eric Love (O'Connell) is a 19-year-old inmate that despite his young age is such a violent threat that he has been 'starred up' to join older convicts in a high security adult penitentiary. O'Connell bites into the role, and quite literally - in an early tussle with the the guards he clamps down on one of their testicles. O'Connell makes his dangerous young prisoner unpredictable and unsettlingly charismatic.
Although we are never informed of what Eric has actually done to land him in prison, judging from the way he quickly acclimates himself in his new cell (fashioning a weapon out of the melted end of a toothbrush and the blade of his safety razor, knowing the perfect hiding place to store it when he needs it), it's not hard to imagine prison has already played a large part in shaping his young life. Perhaps his issues can be traced back to his own convict father? As fate would have it, Eric's new confines include none other than his fellow inmate, dear ol' dad, Neville (Aussie actor Ben Mendelsohn once again bringing nuance and complexity to the role of a volatile thug, as he did in both Animal Kingdom and The Place Beyond the Pines).