"Excuse me, officer… you mind watching your language in front of my son?"
If you've ever seen the television show "OZ", you'd know immediately that prison is not the ideal place to spend your life. For some, it's a matter of keeping your nose clean enough to stay out of jail, for others, it's a matter of securing yourself a successful future in where can avoid it all together. "Prison Song" is a story about Elijah (Q-Tip). As a child, he is witness to a scuffle between his newly reformed father, Steve ("OZ" alumni Harrold Perrineau), and police officers, which despite Steve's good intentions, lands him in prison for the third and final time. He becomes a troubled kid, eventually ending up in a juvenile prison. There, he develops his photography skills, and is dead set on attending college when older. One problem though… he doesn't have the money.
The movie takes a major turn when Elijah is sent to prison for a crime committed out of self-defense. Once there, he realizes that he is not equipped to deal with the harshness of prison, and years for the life he's missing out on. With no hope of parole until 2014, Elijah makes the best of his time, actively drawing and participating in construction jobs.
You can definitely sense that "The Shawshank Redemption" and "OZ" influenced Darnell Martin and Q-Tip, the writers of "Prison Song", as there are many similar qualities between them. As a fan of the prison film genre, I enjoyed "Prison Song" for what it was. The acting is pretty strong, as Q-Tip gives an unexpectedly good performance. It's interesting to see Elijah's character realistically cracking throughout the movie. Just because you are surrounded by violence from birth, doesn't mean you're equipped to deal with it in prison. The ending of the movie is quite powerful, and one of the more interesting ones I've seen in a while. Overall, this is an unknown film worth checking out.
New Line presents "Prison" in Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1 and Full Frame 1.33:1. Through the menu, you can toggle which format you prefer. Having never heard of "Prison Song" before, I expected a shoddy transfer, tons of artifacts, and graininess. What I got was a clean anamorphic transfer, with no visible flaws on the print other than it being a little too bright. Otherwise, colors are vivid and flesh tones look about right. Color me surprised.
The audio is presented here in Dolby 5.1 Surround as well as Dolby 2.0. The soundtrack is pretty decent, as many of the actors (Fat Joe, Mary J. Blige, and Q-Tip among others) bust out into song. Some dialogue sounds a little hollow, and my speakers didn't get as much a workout as I was expecting. Thankfully, the dialogue sounds crisp with no audio dropouts accounted for.
The DVD menu contains interchanging Polaroid images from the movie. You can select "Play Movie", "Set Up Options", "Select a Scene", and "More from New Line Home Entertainment" (Trailers).
You better like trailers, because that's all you're going to get here. One for "Above the Rim", "Bones", "Carmen: A Hip Hopera" and "Talkin' Dirty After Dark." Ironically, there is no trailer for "Prison Song."
A $26.98 MSRP is kind of high for a movie that 99% of the movie watching population has never heard about. The special features are nonexistent, so if you're checking out this DVD, it's for the movie only. Therefore, I'll give it a "Recommended" teetering towards "Rent It."