'Jailbait'

Supposedly inspired by the gross inequities of California's 1994 "three strikes" law—which canned thousands of nonviolent offenders alongside rapists and murderers for a cheery 25- to-life—writer- director Brett C. Leonard's two-handed duet for showboating predator (Stephen Adly Guirgis) and shell-shocked pillow-biter (Michael Pitt) instead becomes the umpteenth prison drama to focus on the lurid threat of forced submission. Leonard's cell-bound HD pressure cooker sentences Randy (Pitt), a candy-ass whose crime is vandalizing a Mercedes, to the company of Jake (Guirgis), a garrulous lifer who coolly admits to cutting his wife's throat. (You wait for Jake to add that he used their wedding cutlery, and Leonard's overcooked script delivers on cue.) The conversation steers from Céline and John Fante, as in every prison, to bad sex and Jake's not-offhand observation that sodomy doesn't automatically make one gay. The burly Guirgis does a fine, showy display of pedal-to-metal rage—too fine, as you're always waiting for it—and Pitt's fish-faced softness makes him a credible victim, especially once Randy unwisely tries a willing-submissive mindfuck on his abuser. But the movie is less claustrophobic than gimmicky—a filmed Off-Broadway production of Scared Straight, as projected from inside the skull of Edward Norton's 25th Hour gay-panic casualty.

 
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