With a predicament almost identical to last month’s The Veteran, Screwed’s protagonist, Sam (James D’Arcy) is an ex-squaddie back from Iraq, and once again finding it hard adjusting to life on civvy st. With a wife and kid to support and little in the way of employment, he reluctantly takes a job as a prison guard.

Getting off to a shaky start, he soon strikes up a bond with his fellow screws, but as the corruption and harsh realities of the job soon begin to take hold of him, he starts to seek solace in booze and drugs, neglecting his family and opting instead to party with co-worker Deano (Frank Harper) and make (what appears to be) daily jaunts to his colleague’s favourite strip bar, chased down by the obligatory, end-of-night “Ruby Murray”. To make matters worse, he also clashes with the corrupt governor Keenan (a performance of skin-crawling virtuosity by David Hayman) who is carefully guarding his own political agenda, and the prison’s dangerous and unflappable kingpin (Noel Clarke).

Breaking the world record for most use of the ‘c’ word in one motion picture, that alone would normally relegate Screwed to the position of a sub-standard, mindless Danny Dyer-esque British crime caper. Thankfully, what’s on offer is a surprisingly solid picture with strong performances across the board, and although a little light on plot (it doesn’t really kick off until around 40 minutes in), the film still manages to hook you.

The all too believable environment on offer must partially be accountable to the fact that it’s based on the book by warden-turned-author Ronnie Thompson, but director Reg Traviss does a fine job of bringing a palpable sense of tension to the prison environment and also manages to present a thoroughly unglamorous world for the audience. The greying, drab prison interiors have much more in common with the likes of Scum than any polished Hollywood prison features out there.

With the majority of the cast made up of noticeable faces from the small screen (and two or three Shane Meadows regulars) Traviss manages to draw some surprisingly authentic performances from his actors. Lead D’Arcy is very strong here, and more than capable of holding a film together on a leading man. He’s ably backed by a formidable Noel Clarke, whose screen presence constantly puts you on edge whenever he enters frame. He’s pretty restrained too, and his character manages to run things on the inside without ever resorting to any clichéd tough-guy histrionics. Harper is also excellent, and has a real onscreen ease which is very watchable and calls to mind some of Ray Winstone’s earlier work.

It’s only towards the end where the film begins to resort to the kind of tired melodrama that it’s so far managed to steer clear of, that it starts to unravel. Fortunately, the good work which has come before saves it from tipping into DTV territory, and in the end, what’s left is a decent (and sometimes hard-hitting) character piece, which is a cut above most films of its kind.