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Parents' Guide to

The System

By Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Relevant messages in uneven, brutal prison fighting movie.

Movie R 2022 98 minutes
The System Movie: Poster

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Ranging from preachy to lazy to flat-out ridiculous, this prison-fight drama benefits from committed work by Gibson and Howard, but they can't overcome saggy storytelling and uninspired filmmaking. The System offers a lot of commentary -- all of it searingly relevant -- on the corruption, exploitation, and racism of the prison system. But it inserts all of this commentary into pockets of awkward expositional dialogue and ends up sounding irritating rather than inspirational. And the Dungeon fights are like a cheap parody of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (they all look like they were all filmed on the same day).

During the fights, an overacting Piven literally sits on a throne and shouts "come on!" in a Southern accent, while a comical fight announcer (rapper Lil Yachty) makes needless comments ("Welcome to the Dungeon!"), and a tokenized person of short stature is there only to ding the round bells and occasionally fist-bump the warden. And some details just aren't very smart, such as a cell phone that the commissioner has left for Terry in the apparently impenetrable prison, which Terry uses throughout without anyone ever noticing. Not to mention that overarching plot threads -- such as the warden offering to bring Terry in on the prison's secret drug business -- make absolutely no sense. Finally, everything in The System ties up a little too neatly, especially given how complex the problem is.

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