User ReviewsReview this title
Michael Pitt and Stephen Adly-Guirgis were incredibly perfect for these roles. It was the first time that I had seen either actor and the cinematography made you feel claustrophobic and trapped as a prison cell. I think it really hit home about the prison system and how young men are raped and mentally abused by cellmates. It should send a message to the judicial system to monitor prisoners more and keep "chickens" from the hawks. Extremely provoking and sad. One of the best films of 2004.
I have only posted here a few times and only when I feel compelled to do so. This movie deserves some attention. I am not a film major, or a self-proclaimed expert. Thank god. I don't need to be taught how to enjoy something. I listen to instinct and emotion. This movie is a solid 8 out of 10 for a number of reasons.
I thought the acting was superb! The main stars cell mate Stephen Adly Guirgis (Jake) was awesome! All the acting was phenomenal. The entire movie, for the most part, takes place in a cell, but you are kept on the edge of your seat from the start.
I can't help but wish there was a little more interaction with the prison and it's inmates, but the simplicity of this movie is part of it's appeal. Like a Clerks. Smart writing, sound and directing make this movie feel quite real. I also can't help but be a little let down with the ending. One of those endings that left me with my mouth wide open and saying, "what! it's over!", but then settling happily for an open ending that leaves you thinking, what next?
I will say though, that I am left wondering, is Michael Pitt (Randy) a little odd in real life or is he that good an actor? I am also a bit angry that he did not try to defend himself. If you read The Kite Runner, I was left with a similar feeling. How could he stand there and let these things happen?
After months of hunting down when and where this film would release in the LA area, I finally sat down in my chair, stub in hand at the Grande Laemmle downtown. I thought I would remain the only member in the audience given the lack of advertisement, but shortly after I arrived two older guys showed up. One of them had a handy-cam, so I figured they were just a couple of old pirates. Nope. The 'pirate' ended up being the father of Brett C. Leonard, the writer/director of the film and his camera was not for pirating-- just had it with him. After hearing Bruce Leonard's story of his son's long journey to getting the film off the ground and on to the screen, I was more than ready to see it. It was definitely worth the wait.
From the limited number of cast members, the one principle setting, the almost exclusive use of the color blue and the lack of 'mood' music, you really got a sense of confinement. The acting was great. I was scared of Randy's (Michael Pitt) cell mate and wanted to be his friend all at the same time. Very amusing and yet horribly disturbing character. Michael Pitt was dead on once again. You really felt for the guy's situation and, no doubt, his regret. Clearly, the film wanted to touch on the ridiculousness (is that even a word?!) of California's three strikes rule. Without giving anything away, I can say that this film while not preachy is definitely a discussion starter (aren't all of the good ones that way?).
By not putting the two principle characters in a few other settings within the prison, i do feel that the director missed an opportunity to take advantage of the medium. A lot of the dialog could have been done in the prison yard or the mess hall..even the library mentioned at the beginning of the film. This would have also allowed us to see how the other inmates were living and interacting. Maybe even opening up the idea that Randy's situation was not just his hard luck, but the simple, sad truth of many other inmates.
Regardless of these thoughts, this was a disturbing, touching and thought-provoking drama. The writer and director should be proud of his accomplishment. I know his father sure is.
Jailbait covers much the same territory and it would appear (if this movie is taken at face value) that some parts of society haven't moved ahead at all.
In this prison drama, essentially a two-man play, we see the interaction between the hardened lifer Jake and the much younger, much more frail Randy (played by Michael Pitt)
The first scene with the two men is deceptively mild but towards the end of that scene we see that there is menace just below the surface of Jake's behavior. From the `wounded doe' look in Randy's eyes at the beginning of the second scene we can begin to see that something is wrong and while what it is seems pretty obvious (given that it's a prison movie) we are not really certain for some time
Unfortunately the movie doesn't progress much from there. Like the men, we seemed sentenced to remain in the same place for much longer than we'd choose to.
This movie is worth seeing as a character study and there are some memorable bits but it seemed to cover no new ground nor present any new perspectives over the 30 year old Fortune and Men's Eyes (albeit this one showed that it had a much better budget and was by far more polished)
I was ultimately left unfulfilled and wondering why this movie had been made.
Some times you see a movie that was based on a play and you can feel the story not fitting the medium of film. This was a very similar experience to that. It was like watching a badly lit stage play with close ups. You are robbed of the joy of going to see a play while also being robbed of the pleasures of film. They are two completely different mediums and this movie fit neither one.
If it was play at a local theater, I would recommend it solely based on the mental exercise that would accompany the play on the ride home. But as a film, I must say this movie left me feeling flat. The camera felt intrusive. The pace felt forced. The violence seemed tame and unreal. Even the dialouge seemed as if it were written by someone who had never seen the inside of a prison. (Or if they had, it was in 1957.)The actors clearly did the best they could. They had to take this job for the chance to do good work and not for money, but sadly the direction and script didn't allow them to make a movie you don't forget about ten minutes before the credits even start.
In the film, Pitt excels through his understated portrayal of a sensitive young man named Randy, whose third felony results in a twenty-five-year prison sentence. His dialogue is spare, but Pitt compensates for that through a striking ability to convey a broad range of emotions -- sorrow, remorse, relief, fear. His expressiveness brought an added dimension to a character that might have been flat if played by a less competent actor.
Yet, as difficult as I often found it to tear my eyes away from Pitt, it is Stephen Adley Guirgis who truly shines through his portrayal of Randy's erratic cell mate. Without giving away too many details, as Jake, Guirgis is, in a word, unnerving. He brought an element of suspense that I felt transcended the usual portrayals of sociopathic prisoners in film. Though one reviewer suggested that the film is predictable, the tension between Jake and Randy was so palpable and disarming that I could never fully anticipate what would transpire from scene to scene. This tension was strengthened by Leonard's use of muted colors, primarily blue, for the cinematography and a soundtrack so subdued that it integrated seamlessly with dialogue and scene.
With that said, "Jailbait" is not a perfect film. While many films are a bit overdone, with scenes that do little to service or further the story, this one could benefit from some extra 'padding'. But "Jailbait" isn't like most feature-length films. It is less of a story or a memoir than a snapshot. Those who seek a linear plot with a definitive ending won't find it here. And those seeking a stylized prison drama featuring gangs and heavy doses of machismo will be disappointed. But if you're looking for an understated, well-acted independent drama -- or a snapshot of the life of a young man in prison -- look no further than "Jailbait".