A family man, Wade Porter, is living the American Dream with his girlfriend Laura and their son Michael: they have a nice house, he has just raised a loan to make his company grow and they are going to get married. However their dream becomes a nightmare when Wade unintentionally kills a burglar that had broken into their house in the middle of the night on his lawn. He is sent to trial and accepts a deal proposed by the prosecutor, being sentenced to three years in prison. During the transportation, there is an incident in the bus and Wade is framed and sent to the maximum security wing under the command of the corrupt Lieutenant Jackson. His cell-mate John Smith that was sentenced to life after avenging the death of his family befriends Wade and gives helpful advice and instills hope in Wade that he will return to his family.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Most prison movies are essentially the same story told with different characters. Usually the protagonist is convicted of a crime (which he did or did not do), is sent to prison and finds that they have to either adapt to their brutal new surroundings or die. Allies are won, enemies are made, death lurks around the corner. "Felon" is no different but three things raise it above most others.
First is the setting. Filmed at the New Mexico State Penitentiary, the movie carries an air of authenticity and gritty realism that movie sets simply can't provide.
Next is the casting. Stephen Dorff has always been a very underrated actor and here he provides a wonderful portrayal of a man let down by the legal system and cast adrift in a living nightmare. His descent from upstanding family man to an enraged prison inmate with fire in his eyes and blood on his knuckles is perhaps predictable but Dorff sells the portrayal to the audience completely. However, Harold Perrineau and Val Kilmer are the real stars here. The first (whom avid fans of the television shows "Lost" and "Oz" will already be familiar with) offers a great performance as Lieutenant Jackson, a happy family orientated man outside of prison but a monster within its walls. Kilmer, meanwhile, is John Smith, the philosophical but potentially dangerous convict who comes to befriend Dorff's Wade during their time together.
The third and final ingredient that ensures "Felon" impresses, is the passionate directing by Ric Roman Waugh who also wrote the screenplay (based, apparently, on events at the notorious Californian State Prison). With the help of some incredible editing, the movie powers along at a frantic rate and rarely gives the audience time to breathe. If the ending is somewhat contrived, you can forgive it because the journey to reach the conclusion was so intense.
Highly recommended, especially for fans of "The Shawshank Redemption", "The Big House", "An Innocent Man" and "Lock Up".
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