Plot: What’s it about?
Greg Yance (Omar Epps) knows all about the streets in his West Chicago area, but is this the lifestyle he wants to be a part of forever? He seems to have a lot of power & influence, as he is a member of the Vice Lords street gang and always has a set of loaded pockets, filled with both greenbacks and a firearm. But of course, this means he has to look over his shoulder for rival gang members and the police, both of whom want to put Yance down. Soon enough, he is busted for possession and when he is in front of the judge, he is given a choice. As he is a first time felon, he can choose either five years in prison or a couple of months in a boot camp system. He opts for the latter and discovers it is harder than he ever expected, since he assumed it would a cakewalk and the easier path to take at those crossroads. Can Yance handle boot camp and if he does, can he remain a good citizen when he returns to the streets?
This Charles S. Dutton directed picture seems like just another “troublemaker finds redemption” movie, but it turns out to be a cut above the usual watermark. I wouldn’t say First Time Felon is a great film, but it has some moments and outshines most others of its kind. It takes the typical storyline and adds little in terms of twists, even playing the race card at times, but the cast often elevates the material. The premise here is based on a true story, so perhaps that is why it all seems so mundane, but I can’t be certain. The performances are good though and with such names as Delroy Lindo, Omar Epps, Rachel Ticotin, and William Forsythe involved, I expected it to be as such. The emotions run high and the theme of desperation is evident, but First Time Felon is never to preachy, though it comes close. I think Dutton aims a little high and comes up short of his ultimate goals here, but the movie is solid and is well worth a look.
The more work I see from him, the more I like Delroy Lindo and if you ask me, he continues to improve as a performer. He has shown some terrific range over his career and in First Time Felon, he tackles his role with enthusiasm. I would think most actors would love to play a harsh prison guard/drill instructor and it seems Lindo does, as he has a lot of energy and makes each line count, very impressive work. This kind of role often leads actors to cross the line and go over the top, but Lindo remains on the mark, so the dramatic impact is intact. You can also see Lindo in such films as Romeo Must Die, Clockers, The Cider House Rules, The Last Castle, Soul of the Game, Bound By Honor, and Crooklyn. The cast here also includes Omar Epps (Love & Basketball, The Mod Squad), Rachel Ticotin (Total Recall, Con Air), William Forsythe (Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, The Substitute), and Justin Pierce (Kids, Next Friday).
Video: How does it look?
First Time Felon is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The movie looks as good here as it ever has on television, but that doesn’t mean it looks excellent. As it had a low pool of resources, the film stock used shows a lot of grain, which sometimes compromises the black levels in darker scenes. The colors look dull and show little signs of life, but flesh tones look natural and that’s good news. In the end, this looks less than impressive, but when you consider the nature & budget of the project, I think this transfer is decent enough.
Audio: How does it sound?
This release houses a 2.0 surround track and while it isn’t too dynamic, it more than handles the needs of the material. This film has a lot of dialogue and doesn’t focus much on the other elements, so there’s not much need for surround presence. A few scenes do open up the rear channels and with effective means, but on the whole, this is a front channel based option. The vocals are clean & crisp at all times, while the other elements are in fine form also. This disc also includes Spanish & French language tracks, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, and French.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc contains some talent files, but no other bonus materials.