As soon as the film starts, I noticed how everything looked and how it all looked very real, the camera work wasn't pretty and it showed these scenarios for how real they were. I'm sure the budget for this was already in the dirt, sadly, but it works to the films advantage, especially the prison scenes. I knew that Animal could look after himself in prison but the portrayal of prison was probably one of the most realistic I've seen in a long time.
The acting is what really makes this hit hard to its audience, it features some people you know, some you don't but it doesn't really matter. Everyone here puts their all into it and it feels so passionate and full of life, which makes it hard to watch at some points. Ving Rhames is the star of the show no doubt and he commands the screen whenever he's on, his performance felt very unrestrained and naked, in a way, he held nothing back and it all felt very honest. The story of a criminal trying to find a new life needs acting like that. I see a lot of films and this is one of the rare occasions where I just see the character on screen as opposed to the actor. I've only ever seen Ving Rhames in Pulp Fiction and the 3 Nicolas Cage films he is in and even though he plays a criminal a few times, this still felt very different to everything else. Terrence Howard gave a good performance as well, which is to be expected from him but the struggle of their relationship really shines because of the acting and makes the story feel all the more real.
The only person who really took me out of it, even if just a little bit, was Chazz Palminteri, no disrespect to the guy but every film I've seen him in he just plays the same character over and over again, he worked for the story but it was a little distracting and I don't understand what he in particular was doing here, it just felt odd to see him in this.
The only major complaint I have, and it isn't even to do with the film itself, is that there's a sequel. While it will be interesting to see where Animal's life goes next, even though the ending of this kind of spells doom for his character but okay, it doesn't really feel necessary at all. I'm glad Rhames came back but the fact that Howard didn't I fear will be a little distracting.
I don't know why but this story really hit me hard and by the end it was genuinely heartbreaking. Maybe because I can picture this happening in real life. A man trying to change his life but everything else around him won't let him do it, he tries to explain he has to conform or else he will go back to prison but no one accepts that. Its a very pure, heartfelt, strong family drama where every main character gets some development, with shocking moments, great music and a real script. It's very hard to watch but for all the right reasons.
The acting is pretty decent, which speaks positively to the directorial ability of Mr. Burke.
Some of the situations seem a little unlikely, but the message of the screenplay is too critical to countenance such a petty criticism.