Ric Roman Waugh’s Felon


Clearly overcompensating for all the aggression that he couldn’t get out of his system as the wheelchair-bound Augustus Hill on HBO’s Oz and the repressed single dad Michael on Lost, Harold Perrineau gives unintentionally comic expression in Felon to the delineation between his character’s public and private scruples—vile on his beat as a prison lieutenant, but a picture-perfect vision of upstanding citizenship around his boy. After accidentally killing a burglar in his front yard, Wade Porter (Stephen Dorff) is sent to the cocksure madman’s unit at California’s Corcoran State Prison, where he quickly loses his bearings while getting the dish on prison politics from lifer John Smith (Val Kilmer, practically understated in spite of the sea of scruff, tattoos, and body fat under which he’s buried). Like Perrineau’s performance, former stuntman Ric Roman Waugh’s directorial mode is essentially a form of acting-out—all fast cuts, blurred affectations, and herky-jerky camera moves—but at least his belligerent style is lobbed at the same fever pitch as the intense dog-eat-dog rumbles that wear on Dorff’s working-class stud. Essentially a cautionary tale for pretty boys without criminal records, Felon gives everyone their tidy and expected due but outlines a realistic enough cycle of how a man’s life can easily spiral out of his control, with Dorff proving once and for all that he can just as ably emote above the neck as below.