Felon - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Felon Reviews

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Super Reviewer
October 19, 2012
A bit sappy, but the acting was better than expected.
Super Reviewer
November 15, 2008
A construction worker accidentally kills an intruder in his home and finds himself incarcerated in a maximum security prison with a hardcore lifer who reluctantly teaches him the ins and outs of prison politics. On the surface, Felon is a typical gangbanger vs. skinhead/shower rape prison drama, but it is in fact surprisingly sophisticated. Stephen Dorff puts in a great performance as the "hero" who is not your usual "innocent man fighting an unjust system" from cliche and it shows in a believable way how a man who is decent at heart could become institutionalized. Val Kilmer is also excellent as his charismatic cell mate who knows that he will never be released and it shows prison not only from the point of view of the inmates, but also its effects on the guards and those left on the outside. It reminded me a little of Traffic for this reason and in a similar way frames its themes within a story that could be considered contrived, but its structure provides a solid framework that means it can avoid becoming desperately bleak and has a satisfying conclusion that doesn't get too schmaltzy. A real surprise for me and one of the best prison films I've seen in a long while.
Super Reviewer
½ February 8, 2009
A pleasant find, thought this was going to be a full on Action style film, with over the top performances, instead we have a pretty naturally acted, fairly realistic Prison Drama.

A survivial of the fittest tale of man destined to serve his sentance, by unfortunate circumstance. Even Val Kilmer was better in this role than most.

Steven Dorff is back on top with the performance in this film.
Super Reviewer
½ March 25, 2010
Prison movies are my favorite just because they scare the crap out of me. And what could make a prison movie better than Stephen Dorff and an old gruff Val Kilmer? I liked that Nick Chinlund plays a good guy (sort of) for once. Harold Perrineau once again plays an asshole really well. Pretty good stuff all around. I'm glad it didn't have an escape from prison ending like 99% of these movies do.
Super Reviewer
August 16, 2008
I really liked this movie for some odd reason. As usual, the guy picked it out...so I figured it would be a "guy" movie. BUT! Turns out...it was entertaining.
Super Reviewer
November 28, 2009
This is a great example of how a movie can be amazingly captivating, and ascend to impressive heights, without as much as a single explosion, car chase or CGI effect. The story is very reminiscent of The Shawshank Redemption, only more violent, gritty and realistic. Most of the actors (apart from Val Kilmer, who here gives one of his best-ever performances) are quite unknown, but I thought that worked in the movie's favor, as it added to the authenticity factor. It's just boggles me how a film as brilliant as this one has received so little notice and publicity. I had never heard of it myself, up until about a week ago when I was recommended to see it. And I certainly don't regret that I did. Because this is, without question, one of the best prison flicks I've ever seen. Incredibly engaging and riveting, and with a ending that was both believable and satisfying.
Super Reviewer
January 6, 2009
"No Rules. No Hope. No Way Out."

A loving husband and father finds his promising future transformed into a waking nightmare when he's convicted of involuntary manslaughter after accidentally killing the burglar who broke into his home in this gritty prison drama starring Stephen Dorff and Val Kilmer. Wade Porter (Dorff) would have done anything to protect his family, and when they were threatened he did what any caring family man would have done. But somehow everything went wrong, and now Wade has been sentenced to spend three years in a maximum-security prison. It's a place where the rules of society have been all but forgotten, and in addition to sharing a cell with a notorious mass murderer (Kilmer), Wade somehow incurs the wrath of the sadistic head prison guard (Harold Perrineau). Now, in order to survive the series of vicious beatings orchestrated for the amusement of the guards, Wade realizes that in order to survive the block and get back to his family he will have to become the toughest felon of them all. But even if Wade does manage to live through this harrowing ordeal, what will be left of that loving family man once he's finally released back into civilized society?

Brilliant film. Like Frankenheimer's The Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) this film moves well beyond the issues of prison reform and ponders the many complex facets of human violence.

John Smith (Val Kilmer) says something like "Make no mistake. We are all in prison." The film successfully articulates that "this could be you" perspective, but in a much broader sense breaks down the barriers between "inside" and "outside" even as it authentically recreates the "inside." One is left with the feeling that we need to completely rethink the relationship between prison and society -- as well as re-evaluate the function of prisons.

Also--Val Kilmer is spectacular; under playing a powerful role. In my book he is one of the best actors of his generation. One is tempted to assume that there must be some problem with his career because he is not making "blockbusters"--but I tend to think that he is consciously choosing to be an actor instead of a movie star. One of 2008's underrated films, a must-see.
Super Reviewer
½ December 29, 2008
Interesting realistic prison films ever made as what I thought this tale in a film is like The Last Castle and In Hell. Actors Stephen Dorff, Sam Shepard and Val Kilmer are brilliant in their performances so are TV's Lost star Harold Perrineau as the meanest warden. Director Ric Roman Waugh makes great use of the minimal locations, and genuinely infuses the film with a feeling of claustrophobia and extreme tension throughout.
Super Reviewer
½ December 23, 2008
"Patience. Penance"

Wow. "Felon" could easily be summoned with this simple word.

"Felon" is a film about the corruption of the penitantiary system. But don't expect only violence and depressed fates of the imprisoned. Ric Roman Waugh's movie is also a gripping and effective story about unconditional love.

Stephen Dorff's character, Wade Porter, is sentenced for 3 years for killing a burglar. He gets taken away from his family and sent to the state prison. There he will find that survival is the only thing that matters if he wants to see his loved ones again. He befriends with John Smith, played by Val Kilmer. With his help, he might just succeed.

The movie is a very impressive effort by Mr. Waugh. Without the great support by talented actors, "Felon" could be easily be buried into oblivion. Stephen Dorff's performance is somewhat spectacular and one of the highlights of 2008. The supporting actors also contribute with decent performances.

The handheld, sometimes jerky camera places the viewer inside it all. In "Felon" this style works really well.

"Felon" was a really good surprise and I certainly will remember this movie as a personal favourite of the 2008 movie year. With a film that belongs to the prison-themed genre, something groundbreaking is hard to accomplish, but still "Felon" deserves my recommendations.

"Yes, prison desensitizes you. But it also forces you to see what's most important. Family. And loyalty"
Super Reviewer
October 30, 2008
Does a better-than-average job,Tough, brutish prison drama with an easy windup, but good acting and an uncompromising take on the prison system.
Super Reviewer
September 6, 2008
Excellent film with a good cast that all do really well with their roles, the best for me being Kilmer as a chunky, middle aged lifer who offers advice and experience to wet behind the ears Dorff. Perrineau is cold as the off the rails prison warden in charge of the shoe (area which houses the hard cases, like the hole) and support from various character actors all add a gritty realism to the prison setting which does make it pretty tense in places.

The story isnt too original but its still very compelling (most prison stories are), and does make you feel nervous and insecure, you do get behind Dorff and you want him to survive but a rather predictable and neat ending does kinda mar the film which could of ended with a darker or less hollywood ending.

Plenty of hard fighting and nasty schank usage makes the film feel grim and makes you taste that bitter feeling as you watch, the film is slightly in the style of a documentary in places, mainly in the prison sequences, and shows what does presumably happen for real, but there are the invitable 'movie' sequences which do add thrills but cheapen the realistic feel.

Definatley one of Dorff's best films for along time
Super Reviewer
August 17, 2008
This is an excellent piece of drama, which delves into the skewered world of the legal and penal system. Injustice is rife... emotions and humanity is nil. I guess this is one of the best prison movies you will ever see.

Honestly, it is a dark, sad tale of our system failing an honest man and his family. And when he serves his sentence, we see how his life is torn apart over and over again... to breaking point. Along the way, he befriends a "lifer" who schools him in the way of prison life and the rules to survive in the pen. One a hardened con with no chance, another grasping at the last straws of hope and humanity... before the corrupt prison guards and the other cons turn him into an animal with a number.

Im a student of criminology and the legal system, and have strong views on punishment. This is a great example of the system corrupt, humanity, honesty and morality lost on both sides of the law. It makes you wonder how can we live in a society when we fail those who fall wayward of our rules, so that they do not learn, they do not accept responsibility, they do not repent? And of course, what happens when the people we entrust to uphold our laws and serve us and the inmates, fail at their duty?

It is said that our society can be judged and evaluated according to how we run our prisons. Obviously this is not a 100% accurate view of our prisons... but Im sure that its not far off. Which kinda makes me very nervous.

I am a big Dorff and Kilmer fan, both have my respects as great actors, very underrated. They noth are all class and talent, thats why they make movies like this. Their performances were great. Kilmer stole the show as the devastated, cold, brutal Smith, a man with no future, forever indebted to serve his time and suffer a great emotional injustice... which is not recieving the death penalty so that he can reunite with his dead family. A philosopher and mentor, respected and feared by his peers, Kilmer is excellent (though he has aged terribly)

Anyways, its hardcore raw film-making. Handheld cameras are used a lot, but I thought it gave it a realistic effect to the whole nature of the movie. It picked up pace real quick in the beginning, and moves fast, so its not boring at all. It does explore the nature of being human, a criminal, and our conceptions of justice and law... and then simply, what is right or wrong. Halfway through, it became simpler, and I guess this enabled it to finish strongly with a happy ending.

Remember, this is just a story, but as we had Prison Break on TV purely for entertainment, Felon is entertaining but also wakes us up and makes us see and feel what men go through in prison, how life is drastically different to our world.

Two thumbs up. Enjoy!
Super Reviewer
July 26, 2008
Hard hitting and very compelling movie.Shot like a doc with very real performances.Val kilmer stands out and is on top form,best since "Spartan".Also the guy from Lost stands out as the villian with a soul .But all in all a fine prison movie that actually very good.
Super Reviewer
½ May 2, 2009
[font=Century Gothic]In "Felon," things are looking up for Wade Porter(Stephen Dorff). His business is expanding and he is about to get married to his longtime fiancee Laura(Marisol Nichols). One night everything changes as a burglar breaks into their house and makes his escape with Wade's wallet and otherwise little damage. In the confusion, Wade hits him in the back of the head as he is running away with a baseball bat and kills him. Wade is then charged with murder and eventually pleads guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the hope that he will be out in a year and a half. On the way to jail, he witnesses a convict killed by Danny Samson(Chris Browning) and says nothing which saves his skin. However, Lieutenant Jackson(Harold Perrineau) is so angry, he places Wade in with the worst of the worst in the security housing unit, confined to his jail cell 23 hours a day. To make matters more interesting, his eventual roommate is the notorious John Smith(Val Kilmer, proving what an underrated actor he is).[/font]
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[font=Century Gothic]For most of its length, "Felon" is an intense and brutal look at life behind bars. The worst parts of the movie are definitely the beginning and the end. Wade is meant to represent untold people who get caught up in the flawed criminal justice system through circumstances beyond their control.(Although I wonder if maybe he should have been able to afford a lawyer.) [/font][font=Century Gothic]The movie works better with a newcomer to jail which makes it easier for the viewer to see events through Wade's eyes. As John points out, prison desensitizes everybody, the prisoners and the guards equally. And I liked that some thought is given to those in solitary confinement, especially after reading a recent New Yorker article. As improbable as the ending might seem on the surface, it does not come out of nowhere, its seeds being planted throughout the movie.[/font]
Super Reviewer
½ March 15, 2009
The people who marketed this film as some Football Factory, gritty, fight-fest should be shot. It deserves more than that.
This may be yet another prison movie about hope but in showing the impact of incarceration upon the family it raises the film. We even see the domestic side of the sadistic head guard and sympathise with him - to a degree.
Dorff is brilliant as the questionably-guilty man who finds a mentor in an outstanding and unrecognisable Val Kilmer. And it's this strong character work that the film revolves around.
I'd almost go so far as to say it's the new Shawshank Redemption. Almost.
Super Reviewer
November 18, 2008
For someone that knows a lot about criminal justice and sees a lot of movies butcher the realities, I felt this was a good movie.
Super Reviewer
½ October 26, 2008
Normally I think Val Kilmer is nice to look at, but not so great on the acting front...but he was awesome in this movie, as was Stephen Dorff. I enjoyed it very much.
Super Reviewer
½ September 27, 2008
Stephen Dorff stars as Wade Porter a regular guy living a normal life with his wife and kid just trying to make ends meet till one night someone breaks into his house and he kills the man which gets him sent to 3 years in one of the toughest prisons around were fights are the norm and he must do anything he can to defend himself an stay alive also doesnt help that the guards are just as bad at the prisoners. Also co starring Val Kilmer in one of his best roles to date this movie is a must see and makes the tv show Oz look like a after school special
Super Reviewer
August 28, 2008
Mediocre is the word. It got some great reviews so my expectations were high, it was ofcource stupid of me to expect something even near the masterpiece American History X. The dialogs, the plot, the way they portrayed the fights, the ending - it all feels very standard and dull. When making a prison movie you get so much for free since the environment is so interesting from the beginning - a more creative style is needed to really catch my attention. Nevertheless, somehow I related to the characters which made it exciting towards the end.
Super Reviewer
½ August 16, 2008
Not as bad as you think. Kilmer is ok, Dorff is pretty good. But the real star is that Harold guy who was in The Matrix. Some of it is truly corny and laughable, but it's a better B-movie than Rodriguez tries to make.
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