“Jailbait”–throught-provoking and emotional

“JAILBAIT”

Thought-provoking and Emotional

Amos Lassen

Surely one of the most fascinating films I have seen this year is “Jailbait” from Warner Brothers and now out on DVD. It tells the story of Randy who commits a victimless crime that would ordinarily have put him on probation but because of the “three strikes of justice” he is locked up for twenty-five years. His cellmate is Jake who at first seems to be the most congenial of all people is remorseless after which he very casually tells Randy that he is in jail for slitting his wife’s throat three months after they were married. Jake senses how afraid Randy is of prison life and advises him how to behave so as to make his life easier. But there is something else about Jake and why he takes Randy to heart. This is a dark, cerebral film which juxtaposes brutality with intimacy. The goal is power for these two people who so obviously are where they do not want to be. The attainment of power—one man over the other—is what propels the film.

Michael Pitt and Stephen Adly-Gurgis, who play the lead roles, are nothing short of amazing. It is as if the characters were designed for them. They create a sense of tension and breathlessness and any violence that occurs in the story is not seen on film. Everything is by insinuation or allusion. Ninety-nine percent of the movie takes place in a closed claustrophobic cell and there are just no words to describe the emotions that run through you as you sit and watch the interchanges between the occupants. Emotion is abundant but also insinuated and you feel as if you are on a roller coaster while listening to the conversation. I would say it took me over an hour to recover from the film once it was over. It is a haunting film with its limited cast, one principle setting and almost exclusive use of the color blue and lack of background music. Randy’s cellmate was a fearsome yet loveable character, amusing and disturbing at the same time. Randy (Michael Pitt) portrayed such facial emotion and such regret for his place in life that it is hard to forget him.

The only way to really describe the film is to say that it is powerful, disturbing, thought-provoking and humorous at the same time. It is mature and seasoned. In this two man prison drama the interaction between the two characters is highly pronounced and from the mild beginning of a rather tender meeting, between the two men, the menace of below the surface tension is felt quite strongly. At first we are not certain what the menace is but as we watch and observe Randy’s face, we more or less feel that rape is impending.

What goes on in prisons today really hits home. It is shocking to see the entire lead up to rape, the carefully planned maneuvers, and the sheer lack of feeling. We know that young men are raped and mentally abused by cellmates and the federal government and the judicial system do nothing about it. This is what “Jailbait” is about. It should be a wake up call to everyone as to what goes on in our prison system.

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