Early Screener Review: Jailbait/17 & Life: Jailbait (2014)


After killing her stepfather in self-defense, Anna Nix is sent to a juvenile detention center. As she struggles to survive in a world of girl gangs and predatory guards, kind-hearted Anna must fight her dark side to stay above the fray.

REVIEW: While still technically on my self-imposed Christmas Break from this blog, Asylum-Regular Jared Cohn (director of such Asylum classics as 12/12/12, Hold Your Breath, and one of my personal favorites Attack from Beneath, aka Atlantic Rim) asked if I would be interested in receiving a screener copy of his latest film for that company for early review, Jailbait (also referred to as simply as 17 & Life, or even 17 and Life: Jailbait) so of course I jumped at the chance. Unfortunately that was before I was plagued by a seemingly a never-ending stream of computer and Internet issues which prevented me from watching the movie or updating my blog for almost a month, but now with all those issues sorted out I was finally able to sit down and give this gritty prison-set drama/thriller a look-see.


And ohhh boy. Gritty is a bit of an understatement here. Jailbait is the kind of dark and gritty throwback to 1970s prison sexploitation flicks that makes you feel icky and dirty just watching it, and chances are if you're any bit normal and right in the head you'll feel like you need to take a shower right after watching it to wash off all the mental dirt and grit.

It starts right from the get-go with setting the tone that is to follow during the entire movie – lead actress Sara Malakul Lane plays a pleasant and shy cello-playing girl that ends up getting violently beaten and raped by her father, who she then accidentally murders while defending herself. It's this act that lands her in the prison that the main bulk of the movie takes place in, and things only get worse for her from there, having to deal with corrupted guards, brutal beatings by her fellow female inmates, continuous rape by the Warden, constant fighting and brawls with rival gangs, drug addiction, and having to go up against guards in full riot gear during scraps that get way out of hand (as well as plenty of other similar-style situations that I'll leave for you to discover on your own). It's almost hard to believe that in real life director Jared Cohn and actress Sara Malakul Lane are actually an item, because he really does not hold back on constantly putting her character through one horrifying deprecating act after another, and hardly a scene goes by that doesn't end with her naked. And what makes it all the more brutal and hard to watch is that everything that happens to her is portrayed and shot in a very realistic manner, almost at times feeling like it's on the verge of being a snuff film.

A movie like this is so gritty, disturbing, and filled with certain content matter that makes it certainly not for everyone. However if you like delving into the 1970s prison/sex exploitation movies of old, this is a great and faithful throwback to those kinds of movies so I'm sure you'll enjoy it, and you can even check it out for yourself on Tuesday, February 18th when it comes out on home video formats in 2014.


Personally though, for me, I'm not a fan of those kinds of movies and tend to not really give them a second glance because quite frankly, I just don't feel comfortable with a lot of the subject matter that usually comes with them. However, there's no denying the level of talent on display here in Jailbait (or 17 & Life: Jailbait if that's the version of the title they ultimately go with) - From Jared Cohn's stylistic directing that fits the tone of the movie very well and even helps hold it up a bit higher than what you would expect from such a film, to Scott Glasgow's moody and foreboding musical score, right down to Sara Malakul Lane's excellent ranged performance that without, there would have been no way her character, nor her character's mental journey and transition, would have been sold nearly as well to the audience.

In addition to her, most of the other actors here, especially when it comes to a couple of the more recurring prisoner characters like the ones played by Erin O'Brien and Jennifer Robyn Jacobs, and even the perverted Warden as played by Steve Hanks, also bring better-then-expected performances. Between all these people, the movie is given much more finesse then you would expect not just from a gritty sexploitation film like this one, but from an Asylum film in general. Yes it's a dirty, gritty, disturbing, and at times perverted film that deals with rape, beatings, and drug addiction among many other things, but it never once feels like it's reveling in that but instead approaches it from an almost respectful manner (well, as respectful as you can be, given the subject matter), and the whole package delivers a high level of tension that is sure to leave you on the edge of your seat and ends in a pretty worthy payoff by the time the credits start rolling. 

My only real complaint about the whole affair is the lack of actual plot. The movie moves from one uncomfortable-to-sit-through scene after another, during which we get to see the main character transform from who she is at the beginning of the movie to who she becomes during it, but there's not really any plot to speak of and most of the scenes, honestly, could be rearranged and take place in a different order and the movie itself wouldn't really be any different.


While it's no secret that I didn't care for 12/12/12, I thought Hold Your Breath was competently-made and Atlantic Rim (or rather Attack From Beneath) was one of the most fun times I've spent with an Asylum movie to date. However, putting aside my own personal preference of not really liking some of the subject matter here and speaking purely in terms of the filmmaking and the level of talent, Jailbait is easily the best from both Jared Cohn and Sara Malakul Lane to date and it makes me excited to see what these two do throughout 2014, be it together or separately.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go take that shower.

8/10 rooms in the Psych Ward
 


Comments

  1. I'm glad this sounds so good, it looks well done and Asylum has been getting better and better!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hola está bien tipica pelicula clase b de los 70 y los 80 ,muy entretenida .

    ReplyDelete
  3. hallo what is the music name from 17:37min?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not too sure. But the end credits have all the music they used listed, and IMDB pages usually have a section for each movie that lists the music and songs used, so you can always try checking there as well.

      Delete
  4. modern day exploitation. A 70s throwback indeed. Thanks forpicking up on that aspect

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for the warning. I'm definitely avoiding this one.

    ReplyDelete
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