Despite the fact that this film had two strikes against it right from the beginning in my book (that it was a straight-to-DVD product and that noted thespian Stephen Dorff was the lead actor) it turned out that the film was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. Not a resounding recommendation, I know, but that's all you're gonna get from this reviewer. Isn't it more than you expected?
Wade Porter (Stephen Dorff – The Gate, Cold Creek Manor) is a hard working young father whose construction business is finally looking up. He is dreaming of providing his family, wife (Marisol Nicols) and young son (Vincent Miller), all they dream of in the near future. Life teaches him a hard lesson when all this is suddenly taken away from Wade in a few mere moments.
While sleeping one night Wade and his wife hear a burglar inside their house. Wade takes a baseball bat and chases the intruder. Closing in on him on the front lawn Wade calls out to the intruder to stop when he doesn't Wade strikes him once on the head with the baseball bat. This one hit has unfortunately killed the intruder. Wade is arrested and found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. He is sentenced to 3 years in prison, which means that he will have to serve 15 months.
Obviously Wade has no experience about being in jail. He is attacked by another inmate on his first day. His inexperience is a huge liability amidst all these hardened criminals. Wade gets himself involved with a white supremacist gang as a means of survival. Everything changes for Wade when serial killer lifer John Smith (Val Kilmer – The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Saint) is transferred and becomes Wade's cellmate.
Smith tells Wade that he will teach him about prison survival if he promises to stay away from him in the yard. In the meantime, Wade's wife, who's is struggling financially, begins to see changes in her husband and she doesn't like them as he is becoming like the other inmates. Wade begins to gain the trust of the leader of the white supremacists by winning fights in the yard. When Wade decides that enough is enough and doesn't want to fight any more he is attacked by the white supremacists. He is saved from a beating by Smith. Now they are both in trouble and survival in this already dangerous environment is made even more difficult.
Several of the aspects of this film were a pleasant surprise to me. Though I did not know director Ric Roman Waugh (previously a stuntman in several films like Gone in 60 Seconds and The Crow) from a hole in the wall he shows himself capable of doing a decent job behind the camera. Actors Stephen Dorff and Val Kilmer have not had the best time of it lately, but both are good in this film. We have all seen our share of prison films, but this one is just different enough to have kept my interest. It looks at friendship and the hardships of those who are incarcerated – especially if it is unjustly. Not all those we believe to be hardened criminals started out that way. Life often plays cruel tricks on 'innocent' people.
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