Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Trevor White|
|Music by||Jermaine Stegall|
|Edited by||Josh Noyes|
Jamesy Boy is a 2014 American biographical crime drama film directed by Trevor White and written by White and Lane Shadgett. The film stars Spencer Lofranco, Mary-Louise Parker, Taissa Farmiga, Ving Rhames, and James Woods. It tells the true story of ex-convict James Burns. The film was released in North America on January 3, 2014 through video on demand, and in a limited release on January 17, 2014 by Phase 4 Films.
James Burns is in prison for selling guns, drug possession and illegal possession of a firearm. Some years earlier, his mother Tracy attempts to enroll him in school, but is turned away due to his past in juvenile detention. One night, James meets Crystal and Drew after they steal from a convenience store, and befriends them. Crystal tells James about Roc, a guy they do illegal odd jobs for and offers him a chance to get in on it. James' mother finds out and reminds him that they are close to his legal appeal, but he defies his incarceration by cutting off his ankle bracelet.
James goes to Roc's house asking how he can make money. Roc propositions James to be his getaway driver, then offers a chance to work for him full-time. Later, James and Crystal are horsing around in a convenience store; when James tries to buy cigarettes and liquor, the cashier, Sarah, tells him to take it as she does not want trouble. Drew and James go to a strip club and Drew points out a man who owes Roc money. Bursting into the man's office, James pulls a gun on him but his thugs break in and beat him up. In the parking lot, James busts the windows out of the man's car and finds a bag of guns. Afterward, James runs into Roc, who orders him to fix the situation.
Meanwhile, James befriends Sarah and begins a relationship with her. He then tries to leave Roc's crew, but Roc tells James that there is a deal going down that night and guilt trips him into going. James and Drew show up to sell the guns he stole, but the police arrive. James escapes to Sarah's house and tells her to pack so they can leave town together. She refuses, leaving him to face his crimes.
In the present day, James makes an enemy in Guillermo, who picks on a new inmate, Chris Cesario. Later, Guillermo's gang attempts to stab James in the shower; during the fight, Chris is mortally wounded instead. James has nightmares from the incident, and takes up poetry in order to block out prison. Worried about Chris, James goes to Lt. Falton to request that Chris be taken out of the yard until his hearing, but Falton refuses. The next day, Guillermo tries to start a fight, but James refuses to join in. Weeks later, Chris hangs himself in the hallway after getting another six years on his sentence. Out of anger, James beats up Guillermo. Later, James starts a fight in the yard, but fellow inmate Conrad breaks it up by telling James that he needs to keep to himself because of his upcoming hearing.
At his hearing, James admits regret over Chris' death and his past decisions; he is subsequently released from prison and gets a job as a janitor. One night, an old acquaintance comes by and offers him some work, but he turns it down. Arriving at Sarah's convenience store, he finds it boarded up. He goes to Sarah's house, but her father says she has moved out. He finds her at a new house that she shares with her fiancé. The two talk about their lives, and James says he may move to New York City. At Sarah's request, he recites some of his poetry for her.
- Spencer Lofranco as James Burns
- Mary-Louise Parker as Tracy Burns
- Taissa Farmiga as Sarah
- Ving Rhames as Conrad
- James Woods as Lt. Mark Falton
- Rosa Salazar as Crystal
- Michael Trotter as Roc
- Ben Rosenfield as Chris Cesario
- Jaime "Taboo" Gomez as Guillermo
- Keon Clayton as Drew
- Kellyn Rogers as Holly Burns
- Robert F. Chew as Fat Ass Manager
The film marked the directorial debut of Trevor White, who co-wrote the screenplay with Lane Shadgett. The story is based on the real-life journey of James Burns, who turned his life around after being released from prison. Maria Norman, Wayne Rogers, Scott Mendick, Steven P. Saeta, Galen Walker and Tim White produced the film with Star Thrower Entertainment, Synergics Films and Gama Entertainment Partners. The real James Burns also acted as a co-producer for the film.
In February 2012, it was reported that James Woods, Ving Rhames and Mary-Louise Parker had joined the cast of the film, and that Spencer Lofranco would be taking on the lead role of James Burns. In March 2012, Taissa Farmiga joined the cast in the supporting role of Sarah, James' love interest. The casting of Taboo in the supporting role of Guillermo was reported in late March 2012, while the film was in production.
Principal photography for the film took place in Baltimore, Maryland on an estimated budget of $5 million. Filming began on March 5, 2012 and lasted approximately five weeks. In late March, filming took place in Jessup, Maryland. Shooting also took place in the Baltimore neighborhood of Curtis Bay, at the Maryland House of Correction, and in Brooklyn. Production wrapped on April 4, 2012.
In May 2013, it was announced that Phase 4 Films had acquired the North American distribution rights to the film. The film was released on all video on demand platforms on January 3, 2014 before a limited release on January 17, 2014. Jamesy Boy was released on Blu-ray in the United States on March 11, 2014, and on DVD on March 18, 2014.
The film received generally negative reviews from film critics. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 26% approval rating, based on 19 reviews, with a weighted average of 5.05/10. On Metacritic, the film garnered an approval score of 29 out of 100, based on 6 reviews, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
Martin Tsai of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "The core of Jamesy Boy – a juvenile delinquent's inside-the-pen coming of age – follows a too-familiar trajectory: Due to the toxic mix of broken family and corruptive friends, James Burns (Spencer Lofranco) has already earned a tracking device on his ankle and an impressive rap sheet boasting robbery, vandalism, assault and firearm possession." David Hiltbrand of The Philadelphia Inquirer gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4, writing, "For an independent film, Jamesy Boy has a distinguished cast, including Ving Rhames, Mary-Louise Parker, and James Woods. But it's an unknown, Spencer Lofranco, who makes this gritty chronicle, based on a true story, so memorable... For such a seriously street film, Jamesy Boy has some surprisingly sappy moments. But the redemptive ending, while thin, is genuinely gratifying." The Hollywood Reporter critic John DeFore wrote, "A true story of a young con who turned his life around, Trevor White's Jamesy Boy wants very much to be inspirational. But nothing the first-time helmer tries – not casting big names in small parts, not scrambling the timeline, not casting a newcomer (Spencer Lofranco) whose swept-back coif recalls James Dean (even if nothing else about him does) – can keep the tale from feeling like one cribbed from a score of other second-chance films. Commercial prospects are dim despite the marquee-worthy supporting cast."
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