Comparisons with Alan Clarke’s justly venerated British reform-school classic “Scum” (1979) are unlikely to flatter new entrants to the genre, but feature debutant Ron Scalpello bravely attempts a 21st-century spin with modestly accomplished drama “Offender.” Set in a young perps’ institute, the pic benefits from an engrossing, if hardly original, vigilante-justice storyline, and an impressive perf from lead Joe Cole (TV’s “Skins”). Item broke into Blighty’s B.O. top 10 in a soft late-summer frame, but is unlikely to spark riots offshore. Rehabilitation awaits on domestic ancillary.
“Offender” begins with dead-eyed young thug Tommy (Cole) assaulting a cop, but all is not as it seems. Flashbacks show a sensitive young man doting on his pregnant girlfriend (Kimberley Nixon) before a vicious attack causes her to miscarry and then push him away. Conveniently landing in the same institute as the men he believes to be responsible, Tommy must now work out which to kill last. Points about the shortcomings of the prison system are interwoven with some subtlety, a quality lacking in the depiction of a sadistic guard (Shaun Dooley). Working title was “Feltham,” Britain’s most notorious jail for male juvies.