The world of male prisons has often been given cinematic treatment over the years. More recently sentimental tales such as ‘The Green Mile’ and ‘Shawshank Redemption’ have emphasised the feelings behind repentant, magical or just plain odd prison inmates. And there’s always one really screwed up individual adding a menacing overtone (Hannibal Lector’s prison mate who flicks seamen onto Clarice Starling comes to mind). Once more prison life comes under the filmic microscope, but this time it is under the auspices of a top cast and director, none of whom are strangers to the Indie scene, bringing with them a honesty, intensity and rawness.
The emphasis this time is on character development and the question of; if someone is convicted of minor charges, will prison make a criminal out of him? This time the premise is that it should not, as young Ron- a middle class dealer of soft drugs- is taken under the wing of hard-bitten prison veteran, Earl. Earl’s message to Ron- stay out of trouble and do not do anything to come back in again.
Darker aspects of prison life intrude upon this relationship- sexual deviancy, hard drugs, racism and the indifference of prison wardens. In such a melting pot it would indeed be easier for a man to become an animal instead of retaining his dignity and humanity.
Steve Buscemi, an old hand at acting -and now also rapidly making himself a name for directing- fringe cinema, steers the story away from sentimentality and into the murkier, if less waters of brutal honesty. Edward Furlong (cute little lad from T2 and later dropout), also no stranger to the Indie scene is Ron; the frightened young man way out of his depth. William Defoe, firmly grounding his position as one of the top character actors working today gives a reserved, soft-spoken performance of great power and intensity as Earl, the prison philosopher.
A gritty drama that is neither over the top, nor underdone, but remains a solid piece of tense drama throughout.
Written with the help of IMDB.
Rotten Tomatoes Score:
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