Well, well, well, what do we have here? This is one rather insignificant little movie about a bad boy turning good, in about the least interesting and most ineffective way imaginable.
Guess the movie is trying a bit too hard to become a dramatic and raw movie about life on the streets and crime and how it affects youngsters who are easily susceptible for it and how it also affects the rest of their lives. But me saying this is actually sounding far better and more interesting than anything that this movie is ever doing. It isn't really ever getting a very solid point across about anything and it never feels like a very realistic movie, despite the fact that it's actually based on a true story. All of the drama and emotions fall flat because of this.
Like I said, it's trying a bit too hard. The movie is based on the early life of James Burns and I can only assume that he also was involved with the making of this movie. That unfortunately also means that dear Jamesy boy is getting depicted as a tough but ultimately also very sweet, bright, young guy, who's just is a victim of circumstances. He's a good guy at heart, who secretly writes poetry when in prison...ahhh, such a sweet boy! Just ignore the fact that he shot at people and injured- and scarred some of them for life, since the movie itself seems to ignore these facts as well.
It still could have worked out all, if only the characters- and the main character in particular was a more and better developed one. I for instance still don't know why he ever decided to become a criminal and what drove him to commit some horrible criminal acts and when, how and why he decided to change his life and become a better person. The movie really isn't ever giving you anything information regarding any of this, which is making this movie a very shallow one. It's hard to get behind the movie its main character, especially when he's a criminal punk, that you also basically know absolutely nothing about.
It's also a pretty weirdly constructed movie. It uses both linear storytelling and flashbacks but at times, especially at the start of the movie, I really couldn't tell whether I was watching a flashback scene or a scene that was part of the linear structure of the story. It feels messy but above all things like a, for most part, unnecessary and convoluted way of storytelling.
There are still some fine actors in this movie but I honestly don't understand why. James Woods is pretty forgettable as a prison chief and Mary-Louise Parker only plays a big and significant part at the start of the movie. It's as if halfway through she decided to drop out of the movie and her character had to be written out of the script, during production. Ving Rhames also plays an absolutely pointless role, that easily could- and maybe also should, have been left out of the movie. And I'm sure Spencer Lofranco isn't a terrible actor but when you have to act opposite the likes of Mary-Louise Parker, James Woods and Ving Rhames you are going to be outclassed, no matter what. And that also happens quite a lot throughout the movie. He gets blown away by some of the other actors in this and they honestly should have picked a more experienced actor to play the main part.
Well, it won't be a contender for the worst movie of the year (after all, it's only January 3!) but it's a far from solid or impressive movie to watch, that's lacking in good drama, any realism and some proper character development.