Today: April 24, 2024
·

R: Hit First, Hit Hardest

Lacking the spirituality of A Prophet, the warmth of The Shawshank Redemption, the rabid fun of Mesrine, the gritty reality of Carandiru or the visceral, jacked-up, balls-out action of Cell 211, Danish prison drama R is a typically Scandinavian entry in the pantheon of prison movies; cold, brutal and unrelentingly bleak. A lot like Denmark really.

Lacking the spirituality of A
Prophet, the warmth of
The Shawshank
Redemption, the rabid fun of
Mesrine,
the gritty reality of
Carandiru or
the visceral, jacked-up, balls-out action of
Cell 211, Danish prison drama R is a typically Scandinavian entry in the pantheon of prison movies;
cold, brutal and unrelentingly bleak. A lot like Denmark really.

A nasty short, sharp, shock to the system which revisits all the usual clichés
of prison movies; the beatings, the scaldings, the drug dealing, the racial
tension, the paranoia, the brutality but, surprisingly, little in the way of
graphic male rape, R paints a very different picture of incarceration to that of Porridge.

Danish Eminem-alike Rune (Pilou
Asbœk
) is the doomed young rookie convict who finds himself having to
negotiate the dangerous waters of Copenhagen’s notorious Horsens Prison after
being sentenced to two years for assault with a knife. Out of his depth and surrounded by tattooed,
skinheaded, Cro-Magnon Vikings, Rune knows the score; he’s fresh meat, the only
way he’s going to survive is by keeping his head down, swallowing his pride and
taking whatever humiliation is doled out by the prison’s alpha males. As is traditional in prison movies, he
is forced to makes his bones by beating up another inmate and gains a measure
of acceptance in the harsh jailhouse hierarchy. Finding a friend and business partner in Rashid (Dulfikar Al-Jabouri), a young Muslim
prisoner, Rune bucks the prison’s strict racial divide, going into business for
himself, he and Rashid supplying drugs to the jail’s Arabs. But, older, more experienced lags are
jealously eyeing his lucrative market and, in a world where treachery and
betrayal are daily currency, just who can Rune trust?

Oppressively claustrophobic, the film eschews music, filling the
soundtrack instead with the clank and clang of metal cell doors, the constant
hum of muffled conversations, the daily minutiae of prison life. Essentially shadows of each other, Rune
and Rashid are linked neither by their friendship or their business partnership
but by their shared status as victim; both men are at the bottom of the food
chain, prey for the predators, a fact that becomes more and more apparent as
the film goes on and their situations become increasingly desperate.

Ratcheting up the tension, writer/directors Tobias
Lindholm & Michael Noer keep their audience as much in the dark as their
protagonists, creating an almost unbearable state of expectant fear as
information is revealed to us as it’s revealed to Rune, most of the film’s more
disturbing moments occurring in neutral areas when we least expect it, brutal
violence erupting from nowhere.

Treading very familiar waters to every other prison flick you’ve ever
seen, R makes Roy Clarke’s classic Scum look as cheerful and life
affirming as the cast of Glee doing Jailhouse Rock. If Ronnie Barker’s Fletcher had done his
time in Denmark he’d probably have been raped, beaten and had boiling oil
thrown in his face in the 1st week.
Uncompromising and brutal, R is closer to punishment than
entertainment.

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com

Previous Story

Immortals

Next Story

13 Assassins DVD

Latest from Blog

Memory

Memory (2023)

Memory is an exquisite American drama in the tender embrace of Michel Franco’s cinematic prowess.

The Cat and the Canary

The Cat and The Canary is a ground-breaking masterpiece of early cinematic horror, directed by the man who literally perfected the old, dark house trope. Paul Leni’s (The Man Who Laughs) seminal

Malum + Hunt Her Kill Her

In this nostalgia-fuelled cinema landscape we find ourselves in, it’s surprising we don’t see more of the big-screen double-bill. Back in the good old days of cinema, it was very common to

The Holdovers

The Holdovers was something of a dark horse at the 2024 Academy Awards, while the likes of Oppenheimer, Poor Things and Killers of the Flower Moon were vying for top honours The
Go toTop