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By Brandon Judell
Michael Pitt fans can celebrate once again. Even though "Jailbait" falls into that rare category of a film in which he keeps his clothes on, the young man with the sultry lips, Victorian pallor, and waif-like beauty still gets smacked around, emotionally abused, raped, forced onto his knees, and, in a piece de resistance, gets to wield a pencil as a deadly weapon. Lord knows what Pitt'd do if his character had a Magic Marker.
Yes, this is a prison drama.
Randy (Pitt) has just been incarcerated with a 25-year sentence for painting "Fuck You" on a rich man's car. Twenty-five years for that? Well, it's this petty offender's third felony. If that wasn't depressing enough, the young jailbird winds up with an out-of-shape, tattooed, possibly psychotic cellmate who reads Celine.
Yes, Jake (Stephen Adly Guirgis) is every cute, straight prisoner's nightmare.
With Jake metamorphosing minute by minute from a friend to a philosopher to a sadist to a pervert back to a pal, poor Randy doesn't know what hit him until something does hit him very hard in the kisser.
Basically, a two-character talkathon, with Jake doing the babbling, the claustrophobic setting is reminiscent of a sort of a low budget, less populated takeoff on "Oz." Erotic at moments, especially if you get off on verbal abuse, "Jailbait" is an exceedingly powerful argument against Three-Strikes-And-You're-Out prison sentences.
It's also equally strong proof that casting can make or break a film. Not since Tom Arnold was employed as another horny criminal, one who tried awfully hard to sexually abuse Edward Furlong in 2000's "Animal Factory," has a penitentiary movie been so undone by a charisma-less performance.
Guirgis, who gives his all here, lacks a threatening sexual aura, both in voice and body. He's even slightly flabby, which is a possibility until the screenplay has him doing several pushups as proof that he works out daily. With his results, you might instantly start questioning the benefits of that exercise.
Yet, Pitt is so superb, that he often makes this film riveting, countering Guirgis' monologues and Brett C. Leonard's uninspired direction, a pair of missteps that might have you feeling like a prisoner in your theater seat.
Please note: Laila Robins is quite fine as Jake's brokenhearted ma.
Director/writer: Brett C. Leonard
Cast: Stephen Adly Guirgis, Michael Pitt, Laila Robins, David Zayas, Eric Trosman
Copyright © Brandon Judell 2006
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