A sad irony underscores this grim tale of a promising future derailed by imprisonment: One of its young stars, D'Aundre Bonds, is currently serving an 11-year sentence for manslaughter. The tragedy of one man's death is compounded by the sudden end of another's bright career; Bonds's performance is the best thing about this modest yet intermittently powerful film. Friends since childhood, Avery Montgomery (Richard T. Jones) and Cashmere (Gabriel Casseus) have chosen very different paths as adults. Avery, who has a young son by his girlfriend, Krista (Melissa DeSousa), hopes to win a swimming scholarship to a major university; Cashmere plans on making it by selling crack on the streets of Albuquerque, N.M. Both dreams are shattered the night Avery, Cash and Krista's brother, Dre (Bonds), are pulled over by the cops. Cash fires a shot at an officer with the gun he finds on the floor of his car, and all three are arrested. The gun, it turns out, was planted by a disgruntled dealer (Sticky Fingaz) who used it that afternoon during a botched robbery that ended in murder. Mistakenly picked out of a line-up as the gunmen, Avery, Cash and Dre are all sentenced to 10 years in New Mexico's state penitentiary. Once inside, Cash makes it immediately clear to his cellmate (Lloyd Avery II) that he's nobody's bitch, while Avery finds himself sharing a cell with contemplative Malachi Young (Clifton Powell), who draws his strength from Ralph Ellison. Dre, unfortunately, isn't as tough or as lucky, and is repeatedly raped by his brutal Aryan cellmate, Graffiti (Shark Fralich). But tough as life is behind bars, it's downright deadly in the yard, where rival gangs vie for control of the prison's lucrative drug trade. Cash, determined to get paid even though he's in prison, hooks up with Clean Up (Master P), the leader of the pen's biggest gang. Avery wants none of it, and turns his back on his old friend, whom he blames for being in prison in the first place. Clean Up, however, has big plans to take over Grafitti's operation, plans that depend on Cash's betrayal of his closest friends. Aside from the inevitable prison flick clichés, this tautly directed, well acted film takes a relatively hard look at how the violence of prison life only serves to further destroy already broken lives. The film's inability to transcend a narrowly defined form of masculinity is troubling, though, particularly its conviction that if you're the victim of prison rape, you're no longer a man.
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- Released: 2003
- Rating: R
- Review: A sad irony underscores this grim tale of a promising future derailed by imprisonment: One of its young stars, D'Aundre Bonds, is currently serving an 11-year sentence for manslaughter. The tragedy of one man's death is compounded by the sudden end of anot… (more)