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.
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.
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"
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
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!
[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]
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.