Jailbait

You may not be aware of it unless you've done a little time, but prison's a bitch and if you don't watch your back, a bitch is exactly what you'll become. That seems to be the lesson to be learned from this well acted but only intermittently compelling examination of how power plays out behind bars. The fresh meat of the title is Randy (Michael Pitt), a...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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You may not be aware of it unless you've done a little time, but prison's a bitch and if you don't watch your back, a bitch is exactly what you'll become. That seems to be the lesson to be learned from this well acted but only intermittently compelling examination of how power plays out behind bars. The fresh meat of the title is Randy (Michael Pitt), a young, three-time loser who's sentenced to 25 years in a maximum security prison for painting an obscenity on a neighbor's car. Randy's new cellmate, Jake (playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis), won't be going anywhere any time soon either: He's looking at life with no chance of parole for slitting his new bride's throat after learning that she was already cheating on him. Despite this obvious temper, Jake seems a cheery, likeable enough fellow, and at first Randy seems grateful to have someone to show him the ropes of prison life; Randy's not quite literate enough to worry over Jake's enthusiasm for Louis-Ferdinand Celine and the truths about the human condition he finds within the pages of Journey to the End of Night. Soon enough, however, the new order of things begins to become crystal clear. Jake orders Randy to get his towel from the sink when he could just as easily grab it himself, then tells Randy to put it back once he's done. When Jake wants to talk, they talk, whether Randy feels like it or not; otherwise Randy is to keep his mouth shut. By the time Jake finally sexually assaults Randy, it's shocking but not entirely unexpected. Pitt is a talented actor whose subtlety is easy to underrate, and he gives a fine, understated performance: That pivotal sexual assault takes place off screen, but all you need to know about the violence and humiliation involved can be read on Pitt's face during Guirgis' long monologue that immediately follows. First-time writer-director Brett. C. Leonard's theater background is apparent in his tight, claustrophobic staging and the minimal set; apart from a scene during which Randy receives a visit from his mother (Laila Robins), the entire film takes place within the cramped confines of the cell, and is composed almost entirely of medium shots and way-too-close-for-comfort close-ups. But in the final analysis it all feels very much like a successful acting exercise that while psychologically acute, doesn't really bring much more to the table than what we've already gleaned from a few episodes of Oz.

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  • Released: 2006
  • Rating: R
  • Review: You may not be aware of it unless you've done a little time, but prison's a bitch and if you don't watch your back, a bitch is exactly what you'll become. That seems to be the lesson to be learned from this well acted but only intermittently compelling exa… (more)

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