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STDVD: Felon

March 14, 2010
  • Note: This is the return of an occasional series looking at movies that go straight to DVD. The first set of reviews I wrote last year stemmed from my own collection, but now we’re going to look at new films.
  • Bad sign No. 1: “Starring Val Kilmer.” Now, I like Val Kilmer. His 1980s output holds a special place in the hearts of my generation, and later, I hold The Saint and The Salton Sea in high regard. In recent years, though, Val has been a little less picky about his film roles. This is why you haven’t seen his name on a poster in an actual theatre for years, but he’s all over the two-for-$10 bin at Walmart.
  • Bad sign No. 2: “Starring Stephen Dorff.” Stephen Dorff is an all right actor, but this guy has made so many bad career choices he’s probably spending most of his time sniffing around for roles Skeet Ulrich turned down.
  • Bad sign No. 3: “Starring Anne Archer.” No, wait, that’s a good thing. There aren’t enough Anne Archer movies out there.

Guess what? It’s a pretty good movie. See, I like prison movies, and I can relate, having spent a good chunk of my life behind bars. Shawshank raised the standard, but there are many other good ones — classics like Escape From Alcatraz and newcomers like The Escapist — and its a genre that’s always ripe for exploration. This film does that, presenting us an everyman (Dorff) and his immersion in the violent, negative world of a state prison.

The prison is more Oz than Shawshank, a dirty, cramped, violent world filled with men who don’t care. And that terror, the terror felt by Dorff’s character, wafts from every scene in this movie. It works.

This is not a perfect film. But it’s worth watching, and it reminds me that (a) Stephen Dorff is a good actor and (b) Val Kilmer is scrambling now that Knight Rider is off the air.

I was a pretty good bartender, by the way.

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