A Sense of Freedom

"They broke his body but not his spirit."
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A Sense of Freedom is a British crime drama based on the life and crimes of Scottish gang leader Jimmy Boyle; the movie is written by Peter MacDougall and based on the autobiography by Jimmy Boyle of the same name. The majority of the movie is set in the Scottish prison system Boyle tries hard to defeat from within and sees star David Hayman portray a criminal who eventually rehabilitates his life after fighting to remain a tough guy for many years. The 85-minute film is directed by Scotland's John MacKenzie who would direct the 1980 gangster classic The Long Good Friday; A Sense of Freedom was released in the U.K. in 1979 through its production company Handmade Films, but did not gain a U.S. release until 1985.

A Sense of Freedom opens with a short sequence placing the life of Jimmy Boyle into the context of his difficult childhood in the slums of Glasgow, Scotland. Growing up, Boyle turns to a life of crime as a way of gaining both money and respect; the criminal activities he and his fellow gang members embark on include protection schemes and smuggling. Avoiding criminal prosecution by the British authorities for many years Boyle shows a glimpse of his future self in giving away many of the profits from his crimes to families in the Glasgow slums who are struggling to survive.

Finally Boyle is sent to prison for life in Scotland for the murder of Babs Rooney, a rival racketeer; Boyle maintains his innocence for the crime throughout the movie. Once in prison Boyle fights the system he is placed into that treats the prisoners badly and aims only to maintain order without seeing those in jail as human beings. Because of his failure to follow the rules, Boyle is often beaten and confined to a small single cell for long periods of time. The film ends with the transfer of Boyle from the regular prison system to a specialist unit attempting to rehabilitate prisoners by using the arts to help them begin a new life. Jimmy Boyle went on to become an accomplished artist upon his release from the prison system.

1985 | 1 hr 21 min | 7.1/10
David Hayman, Jake D'Arcy, Sean Scanlan, Alex Norton
John Mackenzie
A Sense of Freedom
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