Review: The System, starring Tyrese & Terrence Howard

The System is honestly kind of a weird movie. Starring Tyrese, Terrence Howard, and Jeremy Piven, The System follows a former marine who’s forced to go under cover inside of a corrupt private prison to expose the shady dealings he finds and on paper this sounds kind of compelling. When I saw the plot, it seemed like the perfect film to drive home the atrocities of a private prison and why they are a stain on our justice system. The only problem is, once he’s inside this story basically becomes prison fight club, and that’s about it. This will be a spoiler heavy review, so please watch the movie before proceeding.

On his first day inside the prison, Tyrese’s Terry Savage is immediately confronted by the white supremacists as well as the “black militia” of the jail, and those interactions really drive home the type of film that we’re getting into, and that’s essentially 100% action. I wasn’t kidding when I said that this was a prison fight club type of film, the corruption is the fact that the warden (played by Jeremy Piven) pits the inmates in a weekly fighting ring with the winners getting special privileges during their stay. This is also what puts Savage onto the radar of Terrence Howard’s Bones, a martial arts master who trains Savage as well as the former master of Freeway, the top dog of the prison. The crux of the film shows how Savage goes from relative newcomer in jail to top dog leading a full-on revolt by the end of it.

Here’s why I said this movie is kind of weird though, if you were looking for an action romp where you just kind go along for the ride, this is it; but only some of times. Other times it’s this mishmash of social commentary for the judicial system speaking on the very real issues of the dehumanization of criminals. The issue is these instances seem kind of like throwaway lines to drive the action story along instead of forming a cohesive blend.

Looking at one of the guards, Gina for example, we find out during his stint that Savage led a group that saved her unit overseas. She’s thankful, even wondering how a hero like that could end up in prison, but tells him about how he can expect the regular treatment cause “she’s just doing her job.” Later on, in an unprovoked attack by one of Freeway’s men she takes a shank meant for Savage, seemingly as payback for him saving her, and while’s she’s bleeding out she makes sure to let him know “I’m just doing my job.” This could’ve been a very powerful moment in the film, but because of the way the film is progressing, it just seems like another random occurrence; oh, and luckily Gina survives, but we don’t really see her again to see what becomes of the incident.

This is what is inherently my main issue with The System, it has some highs in the action but it kind of treats the plot as a second son so-to-speak. The fight scenes are definitely brutal, and honestly were really fun to watch; especially seeing Freeway fight, you can tell that Maresse Crump truly knows martial arts. I just don’t know if the action was worth the rest of the plot, something that often left me more confused than not.

The System is now playing in theaters and also hitting digital outlets on 11/4.

Rating: 2.5/5 Eagles