Prison Drama ABCs in R


We probably need another prison drama like a shiv to the chest, but R has at least a few things going for it. Tobias Lindholm and Michael Noer’s film keeps its perspective closely tied to its lead character(s), focuses on details both queasy and quotidian, and explodes in moments of fierce intensity. As newly imprisoned Rune explores the hostile terrain of a Danish jailyard, the handheld camera placed as ever behind his head, the gray expanse becomes a sinister arena where massed figures emerge at the edge of the screen. Before long, they pounce and Rune is forced to become the errand boy, the low man in the strict hierarchy that exists among the white prisoners, Perfecting a new drug-smuggling technique, he quickly rises up the ranks only to fall afoul of the rival crew—this one, Arab—who want a cut of the earnings. Like last year’s prison-set thriller A Prophet, R maintains a nose-to-the-ground perspective as Rune attempts to play off the clink’s two ruling gangs. Following Prophet director Jacques Audiard’s lead, Lindholm and Noer attempt to make up in raw emotion what their film lacks in context, an approach good for a surprising amount of mileage, until the project finally chokes on its own inevitable nihilism.