Roger Prison Dodger
It's over 30 years since "McVicar" was released and when it was released terms such as gritty prison drama were used to describe it and maybe in 1980 it did seem gritty and brutal. But watching "McVicar" now, some 30 years later, it no longer appears as gritty as it once did and is very much a movie of its time in style especially with the heavy soundtrack, which being a "The Who Films" production isn't a surprise. Don't get me wrong as "McVicar" is still worth watching and for me features Roger Daltrey's best performance in a movie, but it's no longer the gritty movie it once was.
Now if you didn't know "McVicar" is based on John McVicar who at one time was an armed robber at the top of Scotland Yard's most wanted list. This is where the first problem with the movie appears because the opening sees John, admittedly being violent, being transferred to a secure prison. What doesn't come across is why Scotland Yard labelled him "Public Enemy No. 1", we hear about a few of his crimes but that is it and it doesn't establish him as a bad man. In fact with the exception of one of the prisoners we meet none of them are portrayed as bad men, just lads who have bent the law and got caught.
Anyway the first half of "McVicar" is where it is best as we first get a look at life inside where the lads refuse to be mistreated by guards and stage a riot. The term thick as thieves come to mind as these criminals are lads who just want their rights to what to wear and eat. It is again that aspect of making these criminals almost seem good guys but this eventually leads to John and fellow inmate Walter's escape plan. Now it is an entertaining escape as we see how they went about it, from sneaking tools out to covering up what they were up to but at the same time the budget limitations sadly keep the excitement level down.
The second half of the movie focuses on McVicar on the outside with wife Sheila and their son. I honestly don't know how much truth there is to the events shown in "McVicar" but they are interesting rather than entertaining and lead nicely to McVicar's change of direction. If you don't know what I mean I suggest doing a bit of research into John McVicar because his story is much more than what appears in the movie.
So here is the thing, for me the actual character of John McVicar could have been any criminal because what the real McVicar did is not got across but then Roger Daltrey's performance is his best. Daltrey delivers this jack the lad hard man who has a lot of anger issues and so whilst I don't think it is authentic the character is engrossing. In fact all the characters are well played with Steven Berkoff as Ronnie Harrison being the closest to a menacing convict in the entire movie.
What this all boils down to is that I don't feel "McVicar" gets across the real John McVicar but it is an entertaining movie about a criminal who escaped from prison. And as such if you enjoy prison break movies "McVicar" is worth watching as it is for Roger Daltrey's performance.