Critic Consensus: Felon offers a rather hackneyed depiction of prison life, but is held together by a pleasantly complex plot and solid performances from Kilmer and Dorff.
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Critic Reviews for Felon
It's still white-knuckle tense, and held together by dozens of small, well-observed moments.
Stephen Dorff's powerhouse perf as an ordinary Joe trapped behind bars with warring ethnic psychopaths propels "Felon" well ahead of its expose/exploitation brethren while still avoiding the pious learning curves of Frank Darabont's prestige prison dramas
Tough, brutish prison drama with an easy windup, but good acting and an uncompromising take on the prison system.
Written and directed by Ric Roman Waugh, and filmed at the New Mexico State Penitentiary near Santa Fe, Felon is one of the most realistic prison films ever made.
A good cast and disciplined direction add some distinction to Ric Roman Waugh's Felon, which is basically the old tale about an innocent man corrupted by a stay in prison.
Audience Reviews for Felon
A bit sappy, but the acting was better than expected.
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.
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.
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