It still holds up today. The acting is at times raw but you're talking about something that was filmed in 1982/3 and it mostly featured young newcomers, so it was to be expected. The other negative I have is the score, for me it just doesn't fit in with the movie at all apart from the opening credits and final scene. The plus points are the leads, Sean Penn as Mick O'Brien and Esai Morales as Paco Moreno. Both of whom are perfect for the roles. The guards are played brilliantly too and you even get the likes of Ally Sheedy, Alan Ruck and the permtastic Clancy Brown thrown in for good measure. That boy sure did have one magnificent head of golden hair.
The plot is gritty but simple, you have O'Brien who accidentally kills Paco's brother after a failed robbery attempt, and Paco who rapes O'Brien's girlfriend (Sheedy) in revenge. O'Brien has already served a bit of time in the juvenile facility when Paco is transferred there, and it's only a matter of time before the two come face to face in a breathtaking final showdown.
I still adore this film. It has aged over the years as expected but it's still one hell of a piece of work. It's a really underrated film and one I cannot speak highly of. Check it out!