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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Jailbait
Jailbait
Lightyear Entertainment // R // October 24, 2006
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Mike Long | posted December 14, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

In today's multi-media world, it's not unusual for stories or concepts to move between mediums. Books become movies. Movies become TV shows. Movies become video games. It's a never-ending cycle. But have you ever seen something that you felt was in the wrong medium? The movie Jailbait is essentially a one-set, two-actor play, and in the long run, this story would probably work much better on stage then it does on screen.

As Jailbait opens, Randy (Michael Pitt) is brought into a prison and escorted to his cell, where he meets his cellmate, Jake (Stephen Adly Guirgis). As it's his first day in prison, Randy is understandably nervous and shy. Fortunately, Jake seems like an OK guy. Jake is friendly, talkative, and seemingly intelligent, as he likes to read. When asked why he's in prison, Jake confesses that he murdered his wife when he caught her with another man. Randy admits that he's been incarcerated for spray-painting a car. It was his third felony and he received a 25-year sentence. Prison is obviously a shocking experience for Randy, but Jake's good-spirited demeanor helps to set him at ease.

But, things change very quickly as it becomes obvious that a monstrous human being lies underneath Jake's smiling exterior. Randy is soon put in a very scary and awkward position and his very survival in prison could depend on how he reacts to the situation.

Maybe it's because I'm become so accustomed to watching Prison Break, but I found Jailbait to be boring and stagnant. Again, this movie really should have been a play, as the bulk of it is simply Jake and Randy talking in their cell. Only one brief scene takes place outside of the cell. Given the subject matter, I'm sure that writer/director Brett C. Leonard (not the same Brett Leonard who made The Lawnmower Man) wanted the jail cell to feel very claustrophobic and represent just how trapped Randy is. But, for me, it represented just how limited this film is. Wait...allow me to amend that -- this whole idea would have worked for a short film, but as a feature-length movie, the conversations in the cell drag on for too long.

The film's problem don't end with the setting and the pacing. There are also some questionable elements of the story and the storytelling. I always have trouble with films in which we are asked to sympathize with criminals, and it's especially hard in the case of Randy, as he been imprisoned for such a bone-headed crime. (Is Leonard asking us to question the justice system with this?) On top of that, we learn very little about Randy. This lack of character development makes it very difficult for the viewer to connect with him. On the other end of the spectrum, Jake transforms into a boisterous loudmouth and it's very easy for us to hate him -- but he never gets past being a stereotypical sociopath. (I also found myself being distracted during the movie, as Michael Pitt reminds me of Jason Mewes and Stephen Adly Guirgis reminded me a little of Kevin Smith, so the entire film felt like a very demented Jay and Silent Bob adventure.) Leonard juxtaposes very harsh language with implied physical action, and this may leave some viewers confused as to what's happening in the cell. Pitt, who would be known to mainstream audiences for his turn as Henry on Dawson's Creek underplays his role as Randy, the man of few words, while Guirgis, goes over the top, making Jake far too manic.

Video

Jailbait is sentenced to DVD courtesy of Lightyear and Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1. The DVD box proclaims the transfer to be "16:9 Anamorphic", but it isn't -- the picture is letterboxed, but the transfer is not enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. That faux pas aside, the picture looks fairly good, as it's sharp and clear. The movie is a study in blue tones and shadows, and they look fine on this transfer The image is free from grain or any defects from the source material. There was some mild video noise, but nothing overly distracting.

Audio

The DVD has a Dolby stereo audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects for the most part. However, there were some scenes where I had to turn the volume up to an unusually high level in order to hear the volume. This wasn't a problem until a particularly intense scene resulted in a bass rumble that was then too loud.

Extras

The only extra on the DVD is a THEATRICAL TRAILER for Jailbait.


For some, Jailbait will be an interesting study in how very "large" subject matter can be played out in a very small space. Others will find the movie slow, boring, and uneven. No matter what, most will think that the movie is based on a play and that if it isn't, it should be.
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