Once Fallen (2010)
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Chance (Brian Presley, in a career changing role) has been released from five years in prison for a crime in which he took the blame for a number of his friends and family. Upon release he discovers that his ex-girlfriend Kat (Alison Eastwood) gave birth to their son August while Chance was in jail. Kat promptly walks out on Chance and August, leaving Chance to parent a child he didn't even know he fathered. Chance's friend Beat (Chad Lindberg) is a damaged man, having witnessed with Chance the brutal slaughter of a man by Chance's father Liam (Ed Harris), a man who has been in prison since and has become the leader of the Aryan Brotherhood. Beat has a debt that must be paid and pleads with Chance to do one more Cocaine sale for dirty cop Rath (Ash Adams) to free himself from that debt and get on with life. Chance wants to turn his life around, tries to pay off Beat's debt by participating in a knuckle fight for the operator Eddie (Peter Weller), but when he loses the fight all bets are off. Chance visits his blind aunt Rose (Amy Madigan) and her friend Sue (Sharon Gless) and Rose insists Chance visit his father Liam in the jail. Chance also becomes attached to a friend of Kat's named Pearl (Taraji P. Henson) and Pearl helps Chance to find fatherhood with August and a relationship with her. From all of these setups come encounters that alter the story with realistic views of the corruption of San Pedro as well as a coming together of Chance and his father whose turbulent family history is revealed at the end of the film.
The cast is excellent: Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Taraji P. Henson, Peter Weller, Ash Adams, Chad Lindberg and especially Brian Presley give high quality performances as do the supporting cast members. This little film may be tough and raw, but the underlying importance of family is strong and well worth attention from a wider audience.
His father Liam, (Ed Harris) is currently in prison for beating a man to death, and has been elected head of the Aryan Nation, which gives him certain privileges, but also some obligations that he must fulfill.
Chance's best friend Beat (Chad Lindberg - The Fast and the Furious) has a lot of psychological problems, and is currently involved with a notorious drug-dealer, Rath (Ash Adams - Lionheart), who also happens to be a crooked cop, and doesn't take no for an answer.
Apart from these problems, Chance has just found out that his ex-girlfriend Kat, (Alison Eastwood - Tightrope) has been raising his child while he was in jail, but now decides to split and leave the kid with him, all the while Rath is hassling him, Beat, and Liam.
Chance gets some help from his old pal, bar-owner Eddie (Peter Weller - RoboCop), who in return expects Chance to do some street-fighting for him. Random fights is the only job Chance can get, apart from dealing drugs, but as he now has a young son to raise, and recently finds new love in Pearl (Taraji P. Henson - Hustle & Flow), who just happens to be black - something Liam's fellow Aryan brothers certainly doesn't approve of, and they send their number two, Sonny (Peter Greene - Pulp Fiction) to tell him about it in person.
The thing about this film that makes it fall beneath the cracks of goodness, is the sheer lack of common sense. For starters, it doesn't make any sense, that: 1) Liam became the head of the Aryan nation, but doesn't seem very well-liked by ANY of the other Aryans. 2) Chance's girlfriend just leaving her son with him - an almost complete stranger - after raising the kid for 5 years! 3) The part about Rath ending the way it did - made NO sense whatsoever.
In the end, it all just feels like the story could've gone in SO many other directions, which would've been better. And the producers had an all-star stellar cast of character-actors, which they didn't use for anything at all!
I mean, the movie has Richard Tyson (Kindergarten Cop), Antonio Vargas (Starsky & Hutch), Jesse D. Goins (RoboCop), Sticky Fingaz (Onyx), Rance Howard (Ed Wood), and Steve friggin' Railsback (Lifeforce), and a LOT of other great character-actors, but they're all just completely WASTED in this production, only half of them getting any lines, and the rest just appearing in a few minutes with hardly any screen-time at all... it makes no sense, not to use any of them for anything.. why not just cast some random unknowns instead?
I felt like a good opportunity was missed here. Some of the points came across well, but mostly it was just wasted.
the movie starts out strong as the main character Chance, a drug dealer released from prison after five years is trying hard to change his live for the better. what's not to like about this beginning? Chance is likable (and cute) enough, no surprise here: we want him to succeed but we almost instantly sense that chances for Chance are slim!
the more the story evolves and presents its challenges to our "hero to be", the more all the characters are evolving into rather overdone caricatures, loaded with stereotypes ...
Writer/Producer/Director/Actor Adams meant well but in the end only manages to deliver a well executed movie with an o.k. story but totally lacking convincing characters. This, however is only my personal opinion and should not keep anyone from watching the movie.
Unfortunately, all of these elements were combined very poorly. The result is on par with a made-for-TV movie or, at best, some crappy Dean Cain or Casper Van Diem movie shown at 3am on TNT ("Starship Troopers" excluded, of course).
And though I feel like 2/10 is a harsh score (especially for a low-budget indie film), every time I reconsider the score my mind flashes to many poorly written, poorly acted, poorly directed scenes that are burned into my memory. It's a bad movie; 2/10 is fair.
It is refreshing to see a low budget film like this out doing lot's and lot's of big name actor films of late. The story is solid, goes along at a good pace, acting is good (due to a well picked cast). A solid 8 out of 10 and a hell of a lot better film than some of the over rated B grade crap that I have seen coming from the over paid Hollywood production line for some time. Watch it as it is worth a view.
Don't waste your time with Once Fallen. If you want to see a great prison film, the best I ever saw was The Shawshank Redemption (1994). Nothing comes close to it. Escape from Alcatraz (1979) starring Clint Eastwood is also good. If you want to see Ed Harris in a better film, ANYTHING else is better.
Many of the characters are difficult to like or relate to. The profanity was a turn-off for me. However, it told an interesting story without resorting to cheap sentimentality. If people are expecting a typical Hollywood style blockbuster then they will be disappointed. I thought it was a realistic portrayal of shady characters who are difficult to like but did a good job of developing the characters throughout the movie. In the end, a few characters go from being unlikable degenerates to heroes.
Round-Up: At the age of 64, Ed Harris is still churning out movies with great performances. From Pain & Gain to a brief role in Gravity, he still makes some decent movies but a lot of them go straight to DVD. He has a unique, cool way of acting which is great to watch but he has made some bad choices of late. I was surprised to see Sharon Glees, who used to play Cagney in Cagney & Lacey, but she only had a small role without much lines. I think that everyone thought that she would have been a bigger star than she was. As for this movie, it started off well and the storyline looked promising, but it went downhill after the main character came out of prison.
I recommend this movie to people who are into their drama/crime movies about a guy who comes out of prison and tries to go straight, now that he has to look after his 5 year old boy, but he keeps on getting pulled in the wrong direction. 3/10