Movie Review - Jamesy Boy

There is a real person named James Burns, a handsome boy of 25 who has been in and out of trouble with the law or in general since he was 6-years-old. He has been getting into fights and committing petty crimes and even worser things. He gets put into a youth correctional facility and then a regular prison once he's older. What leads to him being put in a regular prison is because of his involvement in a shooting during a gun buy gone bad and after working for a pretty nasty and powerful, drug dealer.

While he's in prison, he starts out all tough but eventually he befriends a black inmate, sees and experiences some brutality, and becomes a better person. This all happens, but I think I liked it better though back when it was called American History X (1998) or back when it was called any movie about a young, white guy who goes to prison.

The movie cuts back-and-forth between James' life behind bars and his life working for a drug dealer. This film, directed and co-written by Trevor White, isn't exactly like American History X. There isn't a sense of danger and doom here. At no point do you feel as if Jamesy Boy will kill James, even when crazy shootouts start occurring, or maybe it's just that I didn't care. At no point in the first half are we given any reason to care for him.

The movie follows James from the age of 14 to about 18 or 19. He lives in the inner city in some state. He has a kind of young Eminem look and demeanor to him. Yet, White plays a lot of Citizen Cope on the soundtrack, which is almost emblematic of my problem with the movie. There is plenty of contradictions, particularly with James. So much so, I landed on never believing nor understanding him.

James is played by Spencer Lofranco, an actor who occupies the same space as Brad Renfro or Tye Sheridan but seems like a less scrappy version. At one point, James tells a girl who works at her father's convenience store named Sarah, played by Taissa Farmiga, that all he wants is a normal life. I did not believe nor understand James. He does everything he can to be defiant of his mother and join a drug gang. How is that him wanting a normal life?

When James is in prison, he tries to help another young, white inmate named Chris, played by Ben Rosenfield, and I don't understand why. The relationship between James and Chris needed more development, more time between the two boys. The scenes between James and the older black guy named Conrad, played by Ving Rhames, don't go anywhere substantial and take away what could have been time between James and Chris. The scenes between James and Sarah could have been cut as well because they don't add up to much.

I feel like James' choices aren't organic. His choice to join the gang makes no sense. His choice to leave it makes no sense. His choice to help Chris but only to a limit makes no sense. It feels like James does what he does only because the script dictates it and not out of a logical progression or a proper emotional flow. It might have been better if the movie were linear and not cutting back-and-forth, but I just didn't buy any of it.

Two Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 49 mins.


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