O.G. is a mixture of Oscar bait editing with the realness that comes from having its actor surrounding by real people doing time.
|Screenplay By||Stephen Belber|
|Date Released||Currently Doing Festival Circuit|
After doing 24 years, of a 60-year sentence, in an Indiana prison, for a gang violence related offense, Lewis is getting out. Maybe not for necessarily ideal behavior, for with contraband in his cell and him formerly running the prison’s underground market, he isn’t a saint. He has been sent to the hole quite a few times over what he has done or had his hand in.
But, with him keeping his head down, vacating his position as top dog, now he just has to make it through the last 40 days. A time period in which the person who took his spot, Terry, is stirring up trouble and igniting what could be a war between his crew and the white gang, the Syndicate and this kid, Beech, comes into his life. Someone with a stint which may be as long as Lewis’ and it seems, perhaps to compensate for not being in his own son’s life, he tries to take the boy under his wing. Save him from the BS Terry is trying to bring the boy into.
However, with friends in prison being more so users or liabilities than assets, will trying to keep this young man on the straight and narrow turn Lewis’ 40 days back into being in for 60 years? You gotta watch to find out.
Other Noteworthy Facts & Moments
- Creating this movie, and its coinciding documentary, It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It, was a 4 and a half year process.
Question(s) Left Unanswered
- Did Lewis’ family, be it the sister he is to live with or his son and granddaughter, ever visit him? Yeah, his son is in California now, so that would be hard, but what about when he was younger? What was Lewis’ relationship like with Marcus’, his son’s, mom?
It Reminds You No Redemption Story Can Ever Be Complete
With us following Lewis around, being the cool O.G., mentoring Beech, trying to stay out of Terry’s gang war nonsense, you get this idea he is mature. Someone who, over the 24 years he has been in, evolved. But, at his core, there is still that hood dude who makes sure he walks with dignity, respect, and grace. Which makes this reconciliation project he does, when he meets his victim, Abraham’s, sister, Karyn, such a turning point.
For one, it takes you out of the mindset of seeing Lewis as this cool O.G. This guy who uses his snuck in phone to call his son and speak to his granddaughter. With her appearance, and the type of performance which, similar to Judi Dench and Beatrice Straight, despite how short it is, deserves accolades, she completely destroys this redemption story. No more guy who did his time and learned his lesson. This dude who we see reading books and acting as a father figure to some young dude whose dad abandoned him, that guy is out the window.
Instead, what we have is a man who shot someone in the head while trying to rob them. Now, let me note Abraham was no saint, but as she questions why didn’t he just hurt him than kill him, shoot him in a less lethal way, this pushes a lot of questions into your mind. Such as, how can you tell someone who was capable of doing something like that is different now? Do you think, just because they got put in time out for a quarter of their life they are no longer capable of such violence?
The Prison System Is Trash
Especially considering, the way Lewis puts it, jails foster a violent environment. Think about it. You put a bunch of criminals together, who have done various crimes, and keep them locked up with limited contact with the outside world. On top of that, there are limited opportunities for everyone to better themselves, be it through education or jobs, and even then, prisoners get jipped by getting paid, perhaps, a $1 a day, or something like that. Which, with items like corn flakes costing $3+ and who knows how much it may cost for a phone call, so comes the question of whether the system is cruel and unusual punishment.
But it isn’t just the inside, living in the prison which sucks, it is the outside too. As Lewis preps to get out, so comes the realization that, outside of his sister offering him a place to rest his head, there isn’t much else in the way of assistance. As should be widely known, ex-cons don’t get access to most forms of government assistance, including financial aid. Making it so, becoming a habitual offender almost seems pushed for if you don’t got family, friends, or a community which will “see your debt to society paid” then what are you supposed to do?
And yeah, many may say, “Well you shouldn’t have done the crime!” to which the only response is, that was then, and this is now. Are you trying to push this person back to crime? Make it the only viable option since, with a record, and a resume with a 5, 10, 20, or more year gap, starting over isn’t really an option. It’s just survival and struggle and trying to avoid that life for some is what got them in prison in the first place.
On The Fence
It Has Oscar Bait Vibes
While nothing about Lewis, Terry, Beech, and even the prison staff push the idea of sob stories, the way the film is shot, edited, and its score, it modifies the tone to make this film a little less gritty and a bit artsier. One example is Lewis touching the wall of the prison, his hand slipping through, and him feeling outside air. That hand being amongst the shore and perhaps waiting for his granddaughter to take it.
Of course, alongside the usual, let’s focus on this person’s face while having a sweeping orchestra play. Which doesn’t take away from the film, per se, but seems to be more about appealing to critics and those who appreciate the technical side of filmmaking than enhancing a moment or the story.
Overall: Positive (Worth Seeing)
With Jeffrey Wright’s performance, amplified by the actress who played Karyn, when this finds distribution, expect it to be on the awards circuit. With its leading cast being trained actors, alongside actual imprisoned people, you get this beautiful, sometimes raw, mix of scripted reality. One which addressed the potential for a person to grow and change, yet reminds you of the roadblocks that time cannot wear away. Especially if the time was hard time.
Q&A After Screening
Note: The question being answered, which was cut off in the beginning, is about a line in the film about maintaining dignity, respect, and grace, and how the inmates, who were in the film, felt about that.
Also, shout out to the magical powers of Lakeith Stanfield which suddenly made the audio better.