As if that weren’t bad enough, the relentless Daniel also sleeps with Maria, promising her to come clean if she does. (I’ll let you guess if he follows through on that promise.) While an enraged Maria attempts to take action against capital punishment, even appealing to Governor Mandera (Esai Morales) himself, tensions within the prison start to rise, leading to a major riot. It all ends with an unintentionally-hilarious confrontation (Dylan vs. Daniel), and a final sequence that aims to squeeze the heart but further weighs down your already-heavy eyelids.
As a statement against the harsh treatment of prisoners, the film is perfunctory and diluted. The decrepit nature of a death sentence is emblematically portrayed in a scene where old wooden gallows collapse under the weight of a convicted prisoner – this is as subtle as the film gets. Imprisoned does not shy away from clichés, such as cheesy music cues that inform you how to feel, and extreme, heart-on-the-sleeve sentiment. The lack of catharsis, coupled with the insistent motif of leaving your past behind will make you, well, want to leave this film behind.
“Fishburne… says more with a gesture than the filmmaker writes in extended passages; his torn, vengeful Daniel is the film’s saving grace.”
The actors do what they can with one-dimensional roles, inexplicably switching from Spanish to English. Juan Pablo Raba charms as the wrongfully-accused good guy. Juana Acosta is suitably resolute and loving. Edward James Olmos provides a poignant extended cameo as Hospicio, a stalwart prisoner about to get executed. As for Fishburne – well, like a lot of stuff he’s been in recently (The Colony, The Signal, Standoff), the material is beneath him. The actor says more with a gesture than the filmmaker writes in extended passages; his torn, vengeful Daniel is the film’s saving grace.
Clumsy and meandering, Imprisoned seems unsure of whether it’s a story of personal revenge, an outcry against a corrupt regime, or a study of the Puerto Rican justice system. What it is, really, is a B-flick, and not a particularly strong one at that.
"…tensions within the prison start to rise, leading to a major riot."