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‘Bosco’ can’t break free from pacing, thematic issues

The idea of a prison escape is popular in entertainment. From the film “Shawshank Redemption” to the hit television series “Prison Break,” the idea of someone being able to find freedom from unjust incarceration grabs the imaginations of audiences. But what if someone did commit the crime? Is their quest for freedom still inspirational? These are the questions asked by director Nicholas Manuel Pino in the film “Bosco,” currently streaming on Peacock.

Quawntay “Bosco” Adams (Aubrey Joseph) is serving a 35-year sentence for a marijuana possession charge. He is now in a supermax prison after trying to escape from a lower-security prison. He is desperate to leave as he has a child on the way and knows the pain of growing up with a parent who is incarcerated. He works with his neighboring inmate, The Bull (John Lewis), to secure materials for his escape plan, as well as a phone number to a woman from a lonely-hearts ad. As Bosco connects with Tammy (Nikki Blonsky), they begin making plans for his escape. But when the time comes for Bosco to taste freedom, second thoughts start to plague everyone.

This film is based on the true story of Quawntay Adams as he wrote in his book, “Chasin’ Freedum.” Some aspects of this movie are done well, but the editing leaves the movie’s pacing somewhat sluggish — which is disappointing, particularly for a film about a prison break. There is a lot of material that is both exciting and thoughtful, but it’s presented in a way that robs it of a lot of its heft, leaving me unsatisfied with the finished result.

This is not the fault of Joseph, whose portrayal of Bosco is fantastic. The film includes a lot of voice-over work, and he imparts that with heart and pathos. I also quite enjoyed Blonsky’s performance as the woman in contact with a felon. She captured the naivete and strength of Tammy beautifully, and I appreciated the connection between those characters in particular.

But despite the performances, the script felt choppy and unfocused. The guards felt almost like stock villains with no real motivation. The film seemed to want to include aspects of social justice and freedom and commentary on incarceration, but didn’t quite manage to thread the needle. What is said isn’t bad by any stretch, but I wish it had been cleaner.

While federal marijuana possession charges have been dropping significantly in the past decade, they still overwhelmingly impact Black and Latino men. When pre-production for “Bosco” began, Adams was still in prison. He was released in 2020. I appreciate much of what the film tries to accomplish in telling his story; I just desired a more focused story. I believe that could have addressed the larger issues more clearly.

ALISE CHAFFINS is a Morgantown writer who loves movies and sharing her opinions. She reviews a movie from a streaming service every Saturday and one newly in theaters every Sunday. Find more at MacGuffin or Meaning on Substack.