"Starred Up" is about the most uncompromising prison movie imaginable, which says something given predecessors such as "Midnight Express."

It's relentlessly brutal and seemingly authentic, with a screenplay written by Jonathan Asser that's based on his experiences working as a therapist in a British prison for violent offenders.

Director David Mackenzie tells the story of 19-year-old Eric Love (Jack O'Connell), who is transferred to an adult prison early because he's prone to brutal outbursts, with a matter-of-factness that illuminates the grim effects of the aggressive beatings and endless posturing that characterize life in this hellhole.

Eric finds his father Neville (Ben Mendelsohn) locked up as well and the movie ultimately shows itself to be about two generations of Love men facing the ramifications of a lifetime of hurt, abuse and neglect in this dangerous, heightened world. It's a howl of pain, really, conveyed with utter conviction by the two stars.

Starred Up

3 stars

Directed by David Mackenzie | Starring Jack O’Connell, Ben Mendelsohn, Rupert Friend | Not Rated

Playing at IFC Center, Lincoln Center and on VOD