If part of the reason action movies resonate so broadly is because most of us are simply never going to have a chance to go Action Jackson, let alone drive a truck off a freeway ramp or swing by rope from a helicopter and kick open a skyscraper’s window, then prison dramas also provide vicarious entertainment at a comfortable remove. After all, we can enjoy all the cursing, fighting and vengeful plotting without fear of sacrificing our own behymens.
Case in point: the starkly titled R, a Danish prison flick that strongly recalls HBO’s The Wire and the recent, award-winning French import Un Prophete. The fiction film debut documentary of directors Tobias Lindholm and Michael Noer, and the winner of the Dragon Award for Best Nordic Film at the prestigious Gothenburg International Film Festival, the gritty and well acted R is strongly sketched enough to leave a mark with predisposed audiences, no matter its subtitles.
The story here is quite familiar and charts a rather expected path, more or less, whether one has seen a small handful of prison films or upwards of five dozen. Still, the precision and care with which it is rendered mark it more than some time-whiling throwaway. The ethnic and religious divisions, also on display in Un Prophete, are solidly elucidated without ever becoming overbearing or pretentious, and there are nice, relaxed parallels drawn between Rune (Pilou Asbaek, above) and fellow prisoner Rashid (Dulfi al-Jaburi), a Muslim, by way of the respective family members who come to visit them. They are doppelgangers, in a strange way, and the slow dawning of this point gives the movie a nice and somewhat unexpected depth. For the full, original review, from ShockYa, click here. (Olive Films, unrated, 96 minutes)