In the 80’s there were a lot of made-for-TV movies that had a plot that basically consisted of taking an everyman and putting him in whatever bad situation was the hot topic; a father whose daughter gets raped, a factory worker whose plant shuts down, a guy whose neighbor is a drug dealer. Felon follows this basic plot idea and has a guy who kills a burglar in his home and goes to prison for it.
Felon stars Stephen Dorff as the everyman. He has a cute wife and a young kid and he’s doing his best to make a life for his family. Then some guy breaks into his house and he chases him down, hits him with a bat and kills him. (I’m not really giving anything away here. This all happens in the first ten minutes or so.)
So then our hero is put into prison where bad guys do bad things to him and the guards are only slightly less corrupt than the prisoners. It reminded me of Oz without the depth or Shawshank Redemption without a point. It’s not so much that the movie is bad. It’s actually fairly well done. It’s just that it’s not the first prison movie and it does almost nothing different in it.
Val Kilmer shows up as a mass murdering lifer who tries to help our hero out. Regardless of the part or how good or bad the movie is, Val Kilmer tends to be fun to watch and this movie is no except to that. The problem is, he’s much more interesting than our everyman. I cared more about him in the handful of scenes he’s in than I did for Dorff’s character who is in almost every scene.
No review of Felon would be complete without a mention of Harold Perrineau. After spending five seasons playing a wheelchair bound prisoner in Oz, I can only assume he took the role of head prison guard just to play the other side for once. Like Val Kilmer, he’s an excellent actor. He isn’t given much to play with here though and I doubt I’d be mentioning his character at all if it were played by a lesser actor.
Like I said, Felon isn’t bad. It’s a solidly average movie, but given that there are plenty of great movies to watch out there, I doubt I’ll be watching it again.