Jordan Brooks’s review published on Letterboxd:
Loud, threatening, and aggressive, Starred Up drags its audience into the depths of prison culture, and, like a newly-interred inmate, the only way for us to learn, is to observe. As a perpetual inward battle between good and evil rages, Starred Up's characters must navigate a perilous canon of prison etiquette and utter hopelessness.
Eric Love (Jack O'Connell) has been starred up. A youth so explosively vicious that he has been prematurely moved into an adult prison. Yet, director David Mackenzie does not introduce him this way. The Eric Love to whom we are introduced, politely follows all prison protocols while being checked in; walking slowly, doing as he is asked, and staying almost completely silent. It is only when he is “cornered” by another inmate (who was only trying to lend the sleeping Eric a lighter), that Eric's volatility comes to light. Severely injuring the other prisoner, Eric is able to stop himself from killing when he notices the lighter in the unconscious man's hand. He rushes him to the prison guards, who, understandably, misconstrue the situation, and order Eric to surrender. In a fit of terrifying, and well-rehearsed rage, Eric prepares for the barrage of officers, and inflicts maximum damage. Seeking only respect from his legal superiors, Eric reacts swiftly and ruthlessly in his quest for perceived dominance. His skewed sense of self and penchant for savagery seems a likely inheritance from his father, Neville (Ben Mendelsohn), a powerful and influential inmate in Eric's new home. In uninterrupted contact with his father for the first time in his life, Eric grapples with his father's influence while trying to adhere to the program laid-out by an unconventional prison psychologist.