Ex-Con’s Incredible True Story Becomes Gritty Feature

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Ex-cons speaking out and telling their stories seems to be a hot trend on TV these days. Just look at Gypsy Rose Blanchard, whose backstory is surely to become a big-budget feature film in the years to come. On that note, there are a number of exciting feature films coming to Peacock in February, one of which is based on the writings of Quawntay “Bosco” Adams, a real-life ex-con who escaped from prison, was caught and returned to his cell, and has since served his time and shares his story with the world as a free man. Sure, Bosco has a more contained, “TV movie” vibe to it, but it’s a gripping prison journey that reignites the cinematic subgenre thanks to veterans like Tyrese Gibson, Thomas Jane, and Vivica A. Fox returning to action to grace the screen.



Disjointed Narrative Fueled With Rage

Bosco

Bosco

Release Date
February 2, 2024

Director
Nicholas Manuel Pino

Runtime
1hr 39min

Pros

  • Great performances, particularly from Fox
  • Claustrophobic atmosphere reflective of Bosco’s experience
  • Complex, interesting characters and relationships
Cons

  • Small scale
  • Disjointed at times

First, the history: Young Quawntay ‘Bosco” Adams was sentenced to 35 years for attempted possession of marijuana. Camden Randall plays the child version of Quawntay here and shows promise in Hollywood based on his limited scenes, especially opposite heavy hitters like Tyrese Gibson (playing his dad) and Vivica A. Fox (his mother). Our story begins in Compton, in 1985. Quawntay’s father gives his young son some tough words about surviving on the streets, and years later, perhaps it’s this father figure who paved the unfortunate way to getting “Bosco” landed in a maximum-security prison.

Aubrey Joseph (Cloak & Dagger) then takes over in this older version of Bosco as he moves into his private cell, though he can hear his cell neighbor Bull (a standout John Lewis) through the walls, leading to a friendship of sorts. Bull certainly serves as the story’s catalyst during the second act, as it is he who relays a lonely-hearts club phone number to the bored and hopeless Bosco. Enter Tammy, played by Nikki Blonsky (Hairspray), who picks up the phone after Bosco shoots his shot. She might even be able to help him get out of there…

There’s a special reason why Bosco wants, now more than ever, to escape the prison bars that stare him down every day. He is now a father, news that is broken to him by Hunt (Thomas Jane), the prison chief. Millennials grew up watching Jane in a variety of projects, from big-screen hits like Boogie Nights and The Punisher to small-screen projects like HBO’s Hung, and his return to the screen is a welcome one.

Unfortunately, he beats up the helpless Bosco from time to time and watches him relentlessly on the security cam planted inside Bosco’s cell. It’s a constantly unnerving dynamic, but one with a thrilling effect. The scenes Jane and Joseph share are perhaps the strongest in the film. “The rumor is you’re in here because you killed Tupac,” Hunt tells Bosco in one unusually funny moment.

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Tyrese, Vivica, and More

Speaking of Tupac, Bosco is certainly bolstered by a bumping hip-hop soundtrack, in addition to its talented cast. Also in the mix is Hunt’s right-hand man Ramos, played by Theo Rossi (Emily the Criminal). It’s another tricky character to pull off, with dramatic swings between being sympathetic and villainous.

“Don’t lose your s***!” Bosco yells into the mirror in prison. Joseph’s narrations as Bosco are used cleverly. Rather than the more formulaic approach where movies try to use them simply as expository information dumping. “I don’t feel s*** anymore,” he mumbles inside his own head. Isolation can drive you mad, and Bosco offers a stifling, claustrophobic experience where we may just be able to feel what he’s feeling, to an extent. Reading the source material, Bosco’s book Chasin’ Freedum, might also paint a decent picture, but one will truly never know what it was like in there. However, a film like Bosco certainly tries and succeeds in a variety of ways.

Those flashback scenes also help, thanks to the reliable scene-stealer that is Vivica A. Fox. Similarly, when we’re back inside the now adult Bosco’s prison cell, the fierce and gritty Aubrey Joseph — who Marvel fans loved in Freeform’s short-lived series Cloak & Dagger — keeps you on the edge of your seat as he slowly works to quite literally carve himself out of his cell. It’s grounded, realistic storytelling. Watch as his hand bleeds profusely while Bosco secretly slices into the ceiling with hopes of escaping. All the while, his fellow inmates get beaten almost to death and even drop dead at a moment’s notice around him. Will he make it out? Will he survive another day in this hellhole?

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“Fight for every damn day,” the morally conflicted Hunt says out loud towards the film’s end, as he sits drunkenly listening to the police scanner while they try and track down the now-escaped Bosco. He isn’t there next to Hunt, but Hunt’s complicated connection with Bosco is quite clearly understood at this point. Father figure? Maybe. “I might be caged, but I’m not running anymore,” says Bosco in another epic voiceover moment towards the film’s end. The real-life ex-con is currently a free man and sharing his story with the world. I’d love to see this kind of speech in person, but in the meantime, budding filmmaker Nicholas Manuel Pino’s feature debut is certainly worth a tune-in to help spread the word.

Bosco is streaming on Peacock on Feb. 2, 2024.

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