Jailbait

Jailbait

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Jailbait convincingly argues that prison is an unpleasant place to spend time, but didn’t HBO’s Oz already destroy any remaining romantic notions about life behind bars years ago? Not according to playwright Brett C. Leonard, whose feature debut initially appears designed as a critique of “three strikes” incarceration policies before slowly devolving into a stagey, one-on-one power struggle between new inmate Randy (Michael Pitt) and lifer Jake (Stephen Adly Guirgis) that’s defined by frightening attempts at physical and sexual domination. Randy’s rap sheet includes a trio of pot and vandalism felony charges, a far cry from Jake’s main offense of slitting his cheating wife’s throat three months after their wedding vows, yet despite their distinctly unequal criminal pasts, the garrulous Jake nonetheless agrees to take Randy under his wing. Said protective care quickly shifts from tips about how to pass the time (don’t keep a calendar, read, exercise, write letters) to intimidating fashion requests and, ultimately, incontestable demands for carnal satisfaction, their evolving relationship’s explosiveness heightened by both the action’s confinement to a cramped prison cell and Leonard’s expert use of unnerving silence, with the dead air separating sentences and scenes, including prolonged transitional black screens, evocatively counterbalancing Jake’s often affected talkativeness. Nonetheless, the duo’s passive-aggressive efforts to assert authority over the other are so infused with gay panic and willfully foul (if realistic) raunch that Jailbait seems only interested in expounding upon the familiar horrors of lock-up. And once that somewhat palpable point has been hammered into one’s gut by Jake’s frequent, enthusiastic discussions of awful sexual experiences—tales which carry an underlying streak of self-loathing (as well as a desire to find pleasure in misery)—what’s primarily left is the sight of a frightened, seething Randy suffering the twin indignities of unflattering HD camera close-ups and being ordered to tie the bottom of his penitentiary-mandated shirt in a bow like a beach-bound girl.

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DVD
Distributor
Kindred Media Group
Runtime
90 min
Rating
R
Year
2004
Director
Brett C. Leonard
Screenwriter
Brett C. Leonard
Cast
Stephen Adly Guirgis, Michael Pitt, Laila Robins, David Zayas