You’ll care about this murderer.
Synopsis: O.G. follows Louis, once the head of a prominent prison gang, in the final weeks of his 24-year sentence. His impending release is upended when he takes new arrival Beecher, who is being courted by gang leadership, under his wing. Coming to grips with the indelibility of his crime and the challenge of reentering society, Louis finds his freedom hanging in the balance as he struggles to save Beecher. (HBO)
Starring: Jeffrey Wright, Theothus Carter, and William Fichtner
Writer: Stephen Belber
Director: Madeleine Sackler
Running Time: 113mins
Not many films have been as real as this. While watching O.G., it’s easy to think that it’s a documentary but it isn’t. This makes sense considering that its director, Madeline Sackler, is primarily a documentary director. The film’s commitment to realism inside and out only add another level of immersion with the story. Filmed in a real maximum security prison, the story followed Louis (Wright), a prisoner and the former leader of an infamous prison gang, as he approaches the final weeks of his 24 year prison sentence for killing a man over the course of a robbery as a member of a gang. Meanwhile, as Louis was plotting his exit, he was greeted by a new inmate, a young man named Beecher (Carter) who could be described as the younger version of himself.
Faced with the gamut of feelings around of reentering society, nervousness, anxiety, and perhaps fear of the unknown, Louis had to balance doing what was best for him and what was best for Beecher who he saw himself in. He understandably did not want to jeopardize his upcoming release. Louis never had a real friend while in prison so he wanted to be there for Beecher. However, Beecher wasn’t exactly making it easy for him. Meanwhile, surviving his past would also prove challenging. Louis had a reputation throughout the prison from his time which put a target on his back for good and bad reasons as the fact that he was soon be released was known by almost everyone at the prison.
Louis was compelling to watch throughout as his inner struggle was portrayed on multiple fronts. He may have been a murderer but he was still a human being with thoughts and feelings. It was easy to connect with him on an emotional level. He was a much different person now than when he entered prison 24 years prior. Louis had come to terms and was genuinely remorseful for what he did, regardless if others were unwilling to forgive him. While we were waiting to see if he would be released, he was worried about starting his new life on the outside. Though the end may not have been a sure thing at first, the ending shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The open ending was fitting.
The best part of the film of course was Wright’s superb performance as Louis. The film would not have worked remotely as well if not for Wright and his performance (though it was hard not to think of his Westworld character). He graces every scene and his screen presence made it nearly impossible to not look away. Not only was he likable and relatable, he was also compelling to watch in what would be a showcase in emotional nuance and subtly that rightfully won him an award for Best Actor in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Meanwhile, his chemistry with Carter’s Beecher created a fun almost father and son relationship that was fun to watch though we did not get enough of them here.
Overall, O.G. was an excellent drama whose incredible sense of authenticity added a further level of depth to its surprisingly emotional story. It was easy to forget that this was a drama and not a documentary as it followed the inner working of a real prison with some of the prisoners acting many of the parts. Authentic or not, it would not have worked remotely as well if not for a superb performance by Jeffrey Wright to tie it all together. Hopefully by being on HBO, more people will get to see this. While it may not be for everyone, it should be seen.