FIRST TIME FELON
Greg Yance ( Omar Epps) is a second-generation gang banger. A member of the Vice Lords street gang, he's been hustling for the better part of his life. During a random street sweep, he along with fellow gang members are arrested and taken to jail. Unlike his partners, Greg has never been arrested before so at his sentencing, the judge gives him the option of going to a county jail and doing five-years hard time or 120 days in a boot camp for first-time offenders. Greg takes the boot camp offer and is bussed, along with fourteen other first time offenders to Fort Myers camp in the "sticks" of Illinois. Once there, the Superintendent and his officers explain the terms of their incarceration in the camp. Among other things, they are never to talk unless spoken to, the flashing of gang signs and symbols is expressly prohibited and absolutely no fighting is allowed. To break any of these rules means being shipped back to county jail with an additional seven to ten years added to whatever sentence was handed down. Each of the camp's officers is intent on making "men" out of the "boys" they've just received. One in particular (Delroy Lindo) seeks out Greg and makes him his personal project. When the worst flooding in a century hits the Mid-West, Fort Myers is called upon to supply much needed manpower to make and sustain the sandbag levees that are keeping low lying areas and towns from being washed away. Until now, the inmates of Fort Myers have not been involved with anyone outside of the Fort. It is hoped that this current crisis will show whether the tactics employed to change the prisoners from boys to men have actually worked. First Time Felon is based on the true story of Greg Yance and depicts the very real and very deadly elements of life within the poorer locales of the inner city. Masterfully directed by Charles S. Dutton, First Time Felon, delivers an emotionally charged story that accurately depicts the ugliness of desperation that is all too easy to overlook.
The audio for the feature is presented in DD2.0 with .1LFE involvement. The film is primarily dialogue centered so the bulk of the information comes through the center channel. There were a few moments when the sub was employed but on the whole, the soundstage is rather quiet. The dialogue is easily understandable throughout the film as well. The Video is presented in an anamorphically enhanced widescreen format that while providing decent visuals, suffered from an overall dullness in it's presentation. The colors are not muted but they are subdued. There where a few fleckings of white here and there in the print as well. The image is easily watchable, but it's just not as bright as I would have preferred.
The extras for the disc are cast and crew bios for four members of the cast and the Director.
At the very opening of the feature, New York Beacon productions presented their logo and in the sweeping cityscape presented, a fairly short glimpse of the New York City skyline featuring the Twin Towers was presented. Given the events of September 11th, I was taken aback for a moment and ran the logo back several times just to see things as they once were. Needless to say, it is quite heart-breaking to look at the imagery both before and after. As for the film, First Time Felon shares with the viewer several things. Not the least of which is an unflinching look at discrimination, the bull-headedness and often mis-guided motivations of our youth and the suffering inherent in lives without hope. The most important element within the film is the presence of hope and the stalwart perseverance that's portrayed for all to see. The Director thoroughly embodies both of those elements as his career and indeed his life show that with hard work, hope and opportunity, everything is possible! First Time Felon is a very moving piece and very worthy of a rental or a purchase.