Craig Ross Jr’s Mannsfield 12 is a story of prison life, of criminals on both sides of the law, and companionship against injustice. Spiced up and let down equally by quickly cut camera work, and slow mo shots akin to atypical Gangsta music videos, the film attempts to show a set of criminals- all admitted murderers, robbers and unsavoury types, in a sympathetic light. They are faced with torture, physical and mental, threats from fellow inmates and from corrupt officials until they learn to stand as one.
The film begins by introducing us to each inmate- members of an elite unit, but each split into different groups such as gang members or smart types. They are all kept together in a specific wing of Mannsfield prison so that the warden can keep an eye on them- he knows that they can bring in a lot of money- and will allow this as long as he gets a fair slice of the pie. Tony Todd’s character is a gang leader, and appears to be the main man. The charcter of Ali is more level headed- keeping to himself and making a genuine friendship with one of the guards, and one of the ‘special lady visitors’. Their fragile balance is put in jeopardy with the introduction of a new inmate- the son of a big wig on the outside. The warden wants this guy protected, and also a bigger slice of the pie. Naturally, things go wrong and their is a death. In order to protect the big wig’s reputation, one of the 12 must be convicted of the murder. They pull together against this injustice and try to find a way out.
The story here, supposedly based on true events, is sound enough and engages throughout. It is not overlong. The main issues are that there are too many characters, mostly with minor parts- if it had been done Dirty Dozen style with big names etc it may have been more enjoyable but less gritty. All the performances are strong, although the warden does ham it up in parts. The sound is not of the best quality, and early on some of the voice overs seems mumbly. As well as that, some of the music while added to the macho posturing and walking is amusing and childish, rather like most music video rappers- in other words, you would be more afraid of their grandmothers than them. I also found the ending a bit of a let down- yes it is meant to be an anti climax, yes it is supposed to be a final show of defiance, but it appeared that there could have been a much simpler way out. Still entertaining though, and i’m sure others will find it more rewarding. One worth catching on TV.