Penitentiary… I remember looking at the cover of this film every time I’d go to the videostore and thinking “Boy, that looks like a terrible cover.” I never rented it for some reason, and everytime I went back to that store it would stare at me in the face and dare me to rent it. “Hey there, buddy! You should rent me! Who else is cool enough to have a black dude on the front cover with a boxing glove punching through the bars? Well, I mean besides my sequel sitting right next to me, of course. Don’t worry about him though, I’m the original!” After the hallucinations from the lack of oxygen going into my brain subsided, I would again walk away and pick up another movie instead. Regardless of all those encounters, let’s use a little deductive reasoning and analyze that front cover to figure out what this movie is about, shall we?
- Since the guy is wearing boxing gloves, it’s gotta be about boxing
- He’s punching through the bars, so it has to have something to do with him getting out of jail.
- There’s a picture of a hot chick, so that’s gotta be his girlfriend or something, right?
This is an example where you could probably just look at the cover of the video, or the movie poster, and can figure out exactly what’s going on and what’s going to happen. You don’t have all the details and the little intricacies of the plot, but more than likely this guy’s in jail, he’s going to be boxing, and he’s going to get out of jail and meet up with his girlfriend. Unfortunately, what actually happens in the movie is a little more complicated but the basic storyline has just been laid out for you.
Montel “Too Sweet” Cordone (Leon Isaac Kennedy) is sleeping on the side of the road in a tent when some greasy troublemakers come riding on their dirt bikes kicking up dust. Montel gets up, packs his stuff up and heads up to the road to catch a ride. While hitching a ride, he get’s pick up by a van driven by Linda (the hot chick on the cover), who takes him for a ride and offers to “roll around in the back” of the van with him. He declines her offer, and tells him that she has a feeling they’ll meet again (foreshadowing?). They go into a diner for some food, and meet up with the greasy bikers again. Words are exchanged and a fight breaks out, and after taking out one of the bikers, he gets knocked out.
When we meet him again “six months” later and he’s going into jail. We have no reason why he’s in jail, what he’s been committed of, how long he’s in there, he’s just there. What we do know is that he’s already a marked man – presumably because he’s fresh fish and he won’t become the other inmate’s bitch. Now that we’ve got a little thing like plot out of the way, let’s get to it, the fighting. After Too Sweet gets into a prison brawl and put in solitary, the prison lieutenant convinces him that he should join the boxing team. If he shows enough promise, he might be able to talk to his brother in law, who happens to be on the parole board, about getting him out of jail early.
Now, for a movie that’s basically saying it’s about boxing, it’s more about a couple of guys punching at each other like a toughman contest. Too Sweet only boxes three short matches and none of those are really fights, but more like him punching the other guy while his opponent falls around the ring. The other story going on in the movie is about another fresh inmate that gets turned into his cellmate’s bitch and he’s fighting to try to regain his male identity. That storyline is a lot better and it would have probably made a better movie, but we got stuck with Too Sweet and his nonsensical story.
They playful parts of this movie don’t quite make up for the really poor story. When you finally find out the reason why Too Sweet is in prison, it’s a total disappointment and it makes the whole movie seem even more ridiculous than a convicted felon trying to get out of his sentence by entering a boxing tournament… if that’s even possible. Thinking back, maybe there was a good reason I kept passing up that box at the video store. Penitentiary gets 1.5 knockout punches out of 5.