Saturday, January 4, 2020

Revenge is bitter in Paul Kampf's Puerto Rican love story/incarceration tale, IMPRISONED

The anti-capital punishment message is worthwhile, production values are high, and the Blu-ray transfer quite good for the 2018 melodrama, IMPRISONED, which makes its home video debut this coming week. If only the story and screenplay -- credited to Paul Kampf, who also directed -- were not quite so paint-by-numbers: You can see just about every would-be twist and turn coming prior to the curves themselves, which makes watching the movie something of a slough.

Mr. Kampf, shown at right, draws decent enough performances from his attractive and talented cast. But his set-up, continuation and finale are all marked by such obvious "pointers," made even more so by a heavy-handed framing device during which we're told too much about the awful things that will occur, so that we're primed, milked and practically pasteurized by the time resolution arrives. You rather want to call out to the filmmaker, "Hey, could you let us think for ourselves and maybe work a little harder, please?"

The story is one of revenge by a prison warden (Laurence Fishburne, above, left) on a former inmate (Juan Pablo Raba, below) who has paid his debt to society and been released to the loving arms of his wife (Juana Acosta, two photos below), who now owns a very nice local restaurant named for her hubby.

However, because this ex-prisoner was responsible for the somewhat accidental death of the warden's wife and unborn baby during a botched robbery, happiness is not in the cards for the poor fellow (for either poor fellow, actually).

The film allows us to root for our beleaguered hero and against our near-hissable villain to the point at which not much sense of justice (or sense, period) can be served. And so, after a time, we place our brain on hold and just go with the flow.

The film often cuts to public demonstrations against capital punishment, usually led by the wife, trying to head off the hangings scheduled by the nasty warden, which she want the territory's governor (Esai Morales, above) to prevent.

Hangings, whether taking place in prison or out, are illegal in Puerto Rico, but the filmmaker excuses his use of same by claiming that they "serve as a visceral and effective representation for (sic) the film's deeper conflicts and themes surrounding rehabilitation and punishment." Not really, because once you realize this misuse, it makes the movie even cheaper and more slipshod. (That's prison inmate Edward James Olmos, "noosed," above.)

Well, the movie is pretty to look at, its heart is in the right place, and I admit that the final scene (above), with characters we have not seen until now, is sweet, sad and even moving. From Cinema Libre Studio, running 104 minutes, in English (and Spanish with English subtitles), Imprisoned hits the street on on Blu-ray and DVD, as well as via digital streaming (Amazon, Vimeo and Hoopla) this Tuesday, January 7 -- for purchase and/or rental.

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