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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 10.14.10] movie review drama crime

Year: 2010
Directors: Tobias Lindholm, Michael Noer
Writers: Tobias Lindholm, Michael Noer
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

I walked away from Tobias Lindholm and Michael Noer's prison drama R only vaguely impressed but he more I've considered the picture, the more I've come to love it.

Rune (the film's title refers to our lead) enters one of Denmark's toughest prisons to serve a two year sting for stabbing. Scrawny (in comparison to the other inmates) and the new kid on the block, Rune already knows the pecking order. He quickly becomes a target in the dog eat dog world of prison and when he's approached by a mean looking dude who goes by The Mason, to perform an ugly service, he takes his opportunity and essentially becomes the ward's gopher doing everyone's bidding. At least he's safe from the others though the men he shares his cell block with seem like they'll wield their power at any moment. When the prison's drug distribution system runs into trouble, Rune finds a new way to move the drugs around the wards earning the respect of the older inmates and changing his fortune but as with any high pressure situation, when things go sideways, someone has to pay.

It's a pretty sparse plot and R is not as story heavy as some of the other prison dramas kicking about the last few years but Lindholm and Noer excel at creating atmosphere and moving the story along with minimal amounts of dialogue. It's almost as though the writer/directors want you to feel the seclusion and dread of day to day prison life and they succeed at creating that in spades.

There's an authenticity to their film which we've rarely seen. It comes in part from Lindholm and Noer's ability to capture the mood and feel of the recently closed prison they used as a location and their choice to populate many of the film's secondary characters with real ex-convicts and guards. This was likely a suggestion from Noer who comes from a documentary film making background and it's one that works to the film's great benefit. Eerily captured in muted tones, there's a heaviness to the picture which wears on the psyche, a weariness which is heightened by the film's carefully constructed and used soundtrack of noise.

R doesn't go down smoothly. Just when you think that Rune has solved his problems and the film will end relatively well, Lindholm and Noer push a little longer to deliver an unforgettable ending that is completely true to their rough, no frills approach to prison life.

With a brilliant performance from Pilou Asbaek who is likely to be making the jump into larger productions (and perhaps a move to Hollywood), R is a gritty, dark, slow burn of a prison movie that works best once it's been digested and left to rest for a few hours though it's likely to pick-up more than a handful of immediate supporters for it's stark brutality. This is a directing duo to watch and a must see film.

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karsk (12 years ago) Reply

Saw it in Norway about half a year ago. Fantastic film and probably the best and most realistic prison movie I have ever seen. Violent and harse.

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