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Movie review: ‘Jamesy Boy’ is a familiar tale with strong acting

Jamesy Boy

Rating:
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Grade: B+

'Jamesy Boy'
Phase 4 Films

A good movie released in January? Yeah, it’s a rarity, but “Jamesy Boy” is one of those instances. And while it does fall into the by-the-numbers true story genre, “Jamesy Boy,” which opens in limited theaters on Jan. 17, is a star-making vehicle for the young Spencer Lofranco.

Director Trevor White, making his debut here, said in an interview that he knew this story really well and was able to get the subject of the film, James Burns, to serve as co-producer. Good call on White’s part to have the real person whose life is unfolding on screen to work behind the scenes.

“Jamesy Boy” tells the true account of how Burns (portrayed by Lofranco) went from the street gangs of suburban Denver to a maximum security prison cell in his younger years. While imprisoned, he turned his life around with the help of another inmate (Ving Rhames), who is a convicted murderer. The film showcases Burns’ life before prison and also shows him while serving. He struggles with both. On the streets, he’s hanging out with the wrong people – getting in trouble at every corner. In prison, he gets into fights with Guillermo (Black Eyed Peas’ Taboo), the ward (James Woods), and other inmates.

The film spends its time cutting back and forth between showing Burns’ life before prison and while he’s in prison. Some of it is strong; other parts need work. The fights between James and his single mother (Mary Louise-Parker) are powerful, and the relationship James has with a convenience store worker (Taissa Farmiga) is effective. But “Jamesy Boy” doesn’t become the deep character study it truly needed to be in order to be a great film.

White shows he has potential as a director, even though “Jamesy Boy” is full of flaws. And while it’s a story that didn’t, it’s the performances by all involved that keep it intact.