Set during the London riots, right off the bat we see the film’s protagonist, Tommy (Joe Cole) being arrested and sent to Feltham, a young offender’s institution. Unknown to his fellow inmates, Tommy is there for the sole purpose of vengeance.
Whilst the plot sounds promising the film is not. Joe Cole is billed as being a hot new talent, but he seems very inexperienced – in the same way the supporting cast members are as well. The director Ron Scapello tries to give the viewer the realistic view of life in an offender’s institution by using violence, drugs, corruption, religion and Hip Hop to relate.
Baring in mind that this is a realistic vengeance story, the audience gets to see what led Tommy to get himself convicted, whilst experiencing his day-to-day life in Feltham. While we’re not expecting him to go “Frank Castle” on his enemies, you are left wishing he had. The action scenes, however, are brutal, realistic, unrehearsed and short-lived. Other than the flow of the fighting scenes, everything in this film feels rather forced even down to the repetitive dialogue.
The character roles feel overtly stereotyped, to the point that it becomes quite annoying. The main antagonist Jake (English Frank) seems to be trying too hard to be gangster. The warden is trying too hard to be corrupt. Tommy is trying too hard to be emotional and the director is trying too hard to capture emotion. Hopefully by now you are getting the point; most things do not seem natural in this film. If Scapello was hoping that his camera techniques, enhanced stereotypes and emotions would get the viewer to root for vengeance and understand Tommy’s mind-set he is sadly mistaken. Instead, it drags the movie and makes everything feel scripted.
Offender is a very average movie. It is a real story based on real possibilities, but is plagued by really annoying characters. Joe Cole may be the new on the scene, and it shows, but he is the only promising actor here. Maybe with a better cast and more character development his young career could have gotten a better start, but Offender only succeeds in offending your expectations of a promising concept.