Prison movies are pretty much a genre of and to themselves. Even television, within the last decade or so, has taken on the prison system in all the gory details. But what about the Danish prison system? It seems like a joke, and in some ways it is. But 2010’s R is a look at doing time in Denmark and, to a lesser extent, race relations.
Perhaps better known as Kasper Juul on the television political drama Borgen, Pilou Asbæk portrays Rune, a young inmate who is new to the state penitentiary. Surrounded by big white guys covered in tattoos, Rune has to figure out where he fits in and what he needs to do to remain in one piece. While he does get pushed around, he is smarter than he looks and figures out a way to keep himself safe. Meanwhile he befriends a Muslim inmate, Rashid, which causes some problems.
Much of R is observational. Asbæk has seemingly little dialog despite being the lead. While there is essentially no introduction or back story, the film jumps right in but takes a bit to go anywhere. With a little patience, R offers an enlightening look into Danish prisons and the people who live there. It is gritty and raw. …Even if they’d probably never survive in an American prison.