Prison is made for ass-kicking.
After accidentally killing a burglar while trying to protect his family, regular guy Wade Porter (Stephen Dorff) finds himself convicted of involuntary manslaughter and thrown into a maximum security prison for three years. Facing a harsh new world — including a notorious mass murderer cellmate (Val Kilmer) and regular beatings organized by the head guard (Harold Perrineau) — Wade soon realizes he’ll have to toughen up if he’s going to survive.
I always like being surprised by a film that I had no idea even existed. Man, you gotta love Netflix sometimes!
I have to praise director Ric Roman Waugh who does a very tense job of keeping this film interesting, but at the same time suspenseful enough as well. As you watch this film, you can’t help but be on the edge of your seat with every unpredictable thing that happens. It’s plot may look like the same old prison story we see time, and time again, but this film actually keeps its plot expanding into more and more territory we weren’t expecting in the first place.
Take it for granted, this is a very violent film that shows a lot of blood, punching, stabbings, and just a lot of gritty stuff going on. I didn’t mind the grittiness as much as I minded the shaky-cam element that the film used to convey a more sense of realism. In ways, it did, but other times the camera was all over the place, and I found myself sometimes confused as to what was really going on. It’s not terrible shaky-cam, but it’s not good shaky-cam either, if there ever was any such thing.
Stephen Dorff gives a very physically and emotionally challenging performance here as Wade. He shows great, wide range in starting off as your every-day man, who then evolves into a brutalized inmate, and then to a man who just want’s nothing but to have enough of all the crap life has been treating him with. Val Kilmer as John Smith is also good playing a somewhat goofy character to begin with, but still you don’t take him for granted, and all of the best lines come from him. I absolutely despised Harold Perrineau’s character, Lieutenant Jackson. He plays this character so well, because he shows how a normal man can turn into a vicious, and brutal type of monster. Every scene he was in, I just wanted to beat his ass myself, and that is what happens when you got yourself a good prison villain.
Consensus: Though it’s not perfect, Felon still works well as a modest prison-thriller with great performances from the cast, as well as a story that surprisingly expands well as it goes along.