Thursday 5 January 2012


(Tobias Lindholm, Michael Noer, 2010)

R is everything a prison film should be; taut and pacy, grim and compelling, suspenseful and violent. The narrative superficially recalls Audiard's superb A Prophet, but it doesn't have that films ambition or transcendent qualities, settling instead for a pulp intensity which makes it a rewarding genre experience.
The story follows Rune, a young man beginning his first spell behind bars who finds himself in a Wing with a hardcore of experience lifers, most of them bulky, tattooed, shaven headed and utterly intimidating. They steal from and bully him from the off, his life a grinding series of humiliations and petty terrors, and he even has to attack another prisoner for them, in a starkly terrifying sequence of brutal violence, pity and fear. Finally, beginning to understand the hierarchies and systems around him, Rune devises a way to involve himself in the Prisons drug trade, and is suddenly a player. But that only makes everything even more complicated.
Shot in a confident mix of gritty, intimate close-ups and wide shots revealing the bleak dimensions of the Prison building itself, and with no music save a storm of electro-feedback which rises up tunelessly at regular intervals, Lindholm and Noer ensure their film is relentless in it's forward momentum, its protagonist propelled endlessly forward through one awful scenario after another.
The performances are uniformly convincing, mainly from a bunch of terrific Danish character actors, and the story works with something like the spring-coiled mechanism of a beartrap; you feel the ending coming, in all its awful inevitability, and it is grimly satisfying when it happens.

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