Jamesy Boy is the biographically tale of street thug turned poet James Burns (Spencer Lofranco) who despite the best efforts of his mother, Tracy (Mary-Louise Parker) and his girlfriend, Sarah (Taissa Farmiga) falls on the wrong side of the tracks and finds himself in prison.
While in prison James finds himself tangling with the likes of violent gangbanger Guillermo (Taboo) which ultimately lands him in more trouble with the hardened warden, Lt. Falton (James Woods) who is quick to rise to anger when he feels his rules are not being obeyed. James finds himself even more confused by his life when he suddenly feels the need to protect a weaker prisoner named Chris (Ben Rosenfield) and when he forms a close bond with a rapist/murderer named Conrad (Ving Rhames) who is serving a life sentence.
Jamesy Boy is the kind of the film that really annoys you. Annoys you because it has some moments of greatness but then at other times lets itself down with some of the smallest things that easily could have been corrected at any stage throughout the making of the film. As a result the film never really ever reaches the great heights that it should really reach, but at the same time is more than watchable and really draws you in and does more than enough to suggest that first time feature director Trevor White certainly has a nice career ahead of him as a Hollywood director.
The biggest problem with Jamesy Boy is that this is a film that needed to be gritty to make a real impact and instead it never really gets out of a gear that is normally suited for a daytime television movie. That in itself is a real crime that begins with the screenplay written by Lane Shadgett and Trevor White. The story of James Burns lends itself perfectly to a screenplay and it the right hands this would end up as a good crime drama/prison film that could be as gritty as anything that Larry Clark could ever come up with. Certainly Shadgett and White are on the right path early on. They set up a shattered relationship between James and his mother but it is never explored the way it should be. The same can be said for Crystal (Rosa Salazar) and the gang that James becomes involved with, the real threat and danger to James with them never comes across because they are so clichéd they never really seem dangerous.
Then there are the times when the screenplay does work and the film wins you back over. Some of the scenes involving James and Conrad or James and Guillermo work really, really well and it is during those scenes that the drama and tension that should be all throughout this film really comes to the fore. The disappointing thing about that though is it is never really there when it needs to be so the audience will at times feel really let down.
Perhaps the one thing that really stands out about Jamesy Boy though is the acting of Spencer Lofranco. While the script does let him down at times he does more than enough to show he has genuine talent. His baby face is a stark reminder of a young Leonardo DiCaprio in The Basketball Diaries and despite the material at hand he puts in a performance that isn’t too far off a very early Leo either. Taissa Farmiga, Taboo and Rosa Salazar also put incredible performances but it is James Woods who really comes to the fore with a strong portrayal of an angry Prison Warden despite the fact the character is written as a cliché.
Jamesy Boy is a watchable film but people need to be warned that the film never ever really reaches its full potential. Still the story of James Burns is interesting enough and there are times when you find yourself wondering whether this going to be a tragic tale or a happy one.
Director: Trevor White
Starring: Spencer Lofranco, Taissa Farmiga, Mary-Louise Parker, Taboo, James Woods, Ving Rhames, Rosa Salazar, BenRosenfield
Running Time: 109 minutes
Date of Release: TBA