The System (2022) Review
Terry Savage (Tyrese Gibson, Morbius, Dangerous) was a war hero, now he’s reduced to robbing drug houses to try to afford treatment for his daughter’s medical condition. And if the robbery we see at the beginning of The System is any indication, he’s a very lucky guy. Despite a fortune in cash and drugs, nobody seems to have a gun but him. Unfortunately, that luck runs out when the cops raid the operation he’s robbing.
Recognizing his potential, Commissioner Clarke (Ric Reitz, Willy’s Wonderland, The Last Full Measure) offers him a deal. There’s a private prison on the outskirts of town with a high rate of inmate deaths. If Savage will be his informant he’ll cut him a deal, if not he’s facing ten years for armed robbery. So after a final call to his bedridden daughter, he goes undercover.
Writer/director Dallas Jackson (Welcome to Sudden Death, Thriller) lays the prison film clichés on fast and furious in the opening act. Killian (Hawk Walts, Witch Hunt, Death Factory) the brutal head guard, Bones (Terrence Howard, Empire, Sabotage) the lifer who teaches Savage how to refine his fighting and his thinking, gangs, the threat of prison rape, and of course the corrupt as fuck Warden Lucas (Jeremy Piven, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, The Kingdom) who’s pitting the inmates against each other in fights to the death.
The System is just the latest in a long line of similar films. Van Damme starred in a pair of them, Death Warrant and In Hell and there’s the Penitentiary and Undisputed franchises to name a few. Unfortunately, the script doesn’t have anything to set the film apart from all the others, to the contrary it borrows scenes like JCVD using a mop and bucket to ward off multiple attackers in Death Warrant.
Went it comes to the actual fighting, it’s really hard for anyone to compete with the teaming of Scott Adkins and director Isaac Florentine in Undisputed 2 and 3 or Tony Jaa in Kill Zone 2. Gibson gives it his best but while he’s certainly big and imposing, he really doesn’t have a lot of impressive moves. When it comes to fighting for the camera he’s actually upstaged by Marrese Crump (Jiu Jitsu, Wrong Side of Town) who plays Freeway, the leader of the Black Mafia.
Around 2015, I read an article about the growing corruption of the private prison system and its modern-day practices of slavery and human exploitation. The article focused on a particular zone of private prisons in Texas that were making prisoners fight to the death.Dallas Jackson
The end result is the matches in The System don’t have the moves and style to impress the viewer with flashy moves and choreography. They also aren’t nasty and bloody enough to be memorably brutal. They’re not boring, they’re just not memorable.
When it comes to what’s actively bad about The System, there’s the final act twists that pretty much the entire audience will be expecting. It’s actually rather insulting that Jackson thought these would be a surprise. We’re also cheated of the fight we want to see, Savage vs Killian.
Worst of all though is the prison itself. Rather than using a decommissioned prison like many other films, The System looks like it was shot in an old high school, there are no barred cells, just rooms whose doors have big glass windows. When Savage gets put in “the hole” even that has a door with windows.
Weighing it all out, The System has enough competently staged fights to put it ahead of a lot of lower-budgeted action films. And if that’s all you’re looking for and cane tune out the film’s issues, this should keep you satisfied.
The Avenue released The System to theatres on October 28th and to Digital and VOD platforms on November 4th. The Blu-ray will be available on January 3rd. You can check their website for more information. And if you’re in the mood for more action, you can consult FilmTagger for suggestions.