Scum

1980

Scum

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

89%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 9

91%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 8,453
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Movie Info

SCUM tells the story of Carlin, a new reform school inmate with a reputation as a hard case. The authorities encourage gang leader Pongo to humble Carlin, but he beats Pongo down and takes over the mantle of Daddy. The guards institute a reign of terror and neglect, with Carlin emerging as an unlikely leader. One of the most important British features of the last 35 years, SCUM still packs a wallop.

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Critic Reviews for Scum

All Critics (9) | Top Critics (2)

Audience Reviews for Scum

  • Sep 15, 2013
    Upon their arrival at a new borstal, Angel(Alrick Riley) and Carlin(Ray Winstone) are given a lecture from Sands(John Judd), the headmaster, before the beating from Banks(John Blundell), the lead bully, which they conveniently give the same lie to Sands about. If for no other reason, it is because of the color of Angel's skin and the threat Carlin might present. Luckily for himself, Archer(Mick Ford) presents no threat even though he would like to be able to read Russian literature. Maybe once a time, "Scum" might have seemed disturbing with its acute depictions of violence but time has softened its impact which has as much to do with recent basic cable programming as the fact that somehow Ray Winstone is much more intimidating in middle age than as a baby faced young man. I speak for everyone when I say that Archer is my favorite character but sometimes too much attention is paid to him, especially in an extended conversation that almost brings the movie to a halt. In any case, race is the underlying theme here in an institution where the adults seem much more interested in arcane rules than in preventing harm from two prisoners who use violence towards two radically different agendas.
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Feb 16, 2012
    Despite being released over 30 years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Scum has lost none of its punch. Scum is an unforgiving portrait of the British borstal system; 1 hour and 30 minutes of both physical and psychological abuse. The film examines the hierarchy of the borstal, looking at the behaviour and roles of both the wardens and the inmates, questioning who's worst. The hierarchy is ruptured when Carlin (Ray Winstone) enters the borstal. Carlin claims to be looking for 'no trouble', but really is equally or even more pugnacious and skullduggerous than the rest. Much like 'Cool Hand Luke' and 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest', Scum explores the infuriating frustration of injustice in 'correctional' institutions. Personally, I find few things worse than the abuse of power, whether it's within an institution or within a family. I'm sure many would agree with me on that, subsequently making Scum an engrossing, resonating and unpleasant watch for all. The character of Archer, an intelligent and supposedly staunch vegetarian who's out to make life hard for the screws, delivers strands of Roy Minton's script that brilliantly observe the system and the angry men that staff these institutions - "Although you have spent your life in the prison service, you are still only a basic officer. Now, who gets the stick for that? Us. Who pays for that daily humiliation?" It's Carlin's arrival, growth and ultimately tenure as 'The Daddy' that serves as the central narrative of the film, but, as a whole, it is a condemnation of the British borstal system that's the films message and purpose. Through convincing performances and harsh realism, Scum accomplishes what it sets out to achieve: depict the reprehensible conditions of violence, racism and corruption in these institutions. One may wonder if the film exaggerated these conditions, but the borstal system was abolished by government in 1982, replacing it with 'Youth Custody Centres'. I think this speaks volumes for Scum's credibility.
    Jack H Super Reviewer
  • May 22, 2010
    A raw, brutal look at the power struggles within an English prison for young men. Fighting, rape and even suicide are standard fare, and the dialogue also serves as a solid primer for vulgar UK slang. The film's production values are a bit crude, but the acting is so good that it's almost unfathomable that these kids weren't genuine offenders. Did they really enjoy a meal together at the catering table, after a tough day of shooting? I do feel the flamboyant conclusion was a bit inconsistent and illogical. I can't say more without spoiling. I should add that I saw the 1979 version, not the original, made-for-television film.
    Eric B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 17, 2009
    A good movie but I hate how the ending left you hanging
    Brody M Super Reviewer

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