After debuting at the 2004 Tribeca Film Festival and then traveling the
circuit of festivals,
JAILBAIT has reached theaters. The movie, written and
directed by playwright Brett C. Leonard (a member of the LAByrinth Theater
Company) is essentially a two-hander that stars Michael Pitt and Stephen Adly
Guirgis as cell mates.

Pitt portrays Randy, a youthful offender who ends up in a California jail,
sentenced to 25 years for a minor infraction because it was his third felony
conviction. He's assigned to the same cell as Jake (Guirgis) who murdered
his newlywed wife when he learned she was cheating on him. The pair begin
an uneasy relationship that eventually turns, well, that's the whole point and
plot -- we watch as the pair engage in mind games with the expected results.

There are times when
JAILBAIT plays like a rejected episode of the
HBO drama series
OZ. Further compounding that reference is the presence
of actor David Zayas, a former NYPD policeman turned actor who appeared         
in the cable series as a convicted murderer while here he's cast as a prison
guard. Perhaps if he had been cast as Jake, the film might have been more
interesting. For my taste, Guirgis just wasn't menacing enough as Jake. I
never once bought him either as a killer or a sexual predator.

Pitt's performance is equally problematic. When he first came on the
scene, I was impressed with the actor but as time has gone on, he tends
to fall back on the same shtick that he doesn't seem to be acting, just
playing a slight variation on his persona. He's fast in danger of stealing
Orlando Bloom's crown as the least charismatic actor working in movies
today.

When I read that Leonard was a playwright, I wasn't surprised.
By design the film is mostly a two character, one set piece, something
that would be cheaply mounted on the stage. The screenplay is talky and
Leonard has his actors rely on silences that seem to drag on forever.
Pitt stare blankly while Guirgis struts and tries to act macho, neither
really achieving much of a characterization. Their shortcomings are
put into relief by actress Laila Robins who briefly appears as Randy's
mother. In a few short scenes, she etches a memorable character full of
pain and remorse. For a few moments,
JAILBAIT soars, but then it
crashes when the action shifts back to the leads.


   Rating:                D +
   MPAA Rating:        R for pervasive language including graphic sexual
                                 dialogue, and some violence
   Running time:       90 mins.



                  Viewed at Broadway Screening Room
Jailbait
©  2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.