The provocative, say-what-now setup of Release’s opening sequence pretty much guarantees that things will not turn out well for its leading characters—or for those sitting through the mawkish prison melodrama built around them. When a violent alarm sounds, one of two naked men locked in a sleepy embrace (and in a cell) leaps to his feet, dresses quickly in a prison guard uniform, and slips away. The other is soon marched down the hall to have a public shower before being led to a chapel, where he dons priestly robes and sits to hear some confessions. “The guard” (Garry Summers) and “the priest” (Daniel Brocklebank) is how you will come to think of the mooning duo, whose secret passion is thwarted by every other character in the movie, including the laughable villain (Bernie Hodges), the horny female warden (Dymphna Skehill), and the vulnerable protégé (Wayne Virgo). Thudding Catholic symbolism and inadvertent camp are initially somewhat mitigated by British co-writers and -directors Darren Flaxstone and Christian Martin’s determinedly stylistic use of gauzy light and hovering camerawork, as well as an appealing performance from Brocklebank. But the solemn themes and dead-earnest execution soon drag an unusual spin on an old story of intolerance into the dank generic gutter.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 29, 2010