Oz: The Routine (1997)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Prime-Time Drama [TV], Prison Film  |   Run Time - 60 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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The premiere episode of HBO's Oz, directed by Darnell Martin (I Like It Like That), gives viewers an idea of the kind of graphic violence and deviant behavior they can expect from the series. Augustus Hill (Harold Perrineau), a wheelchair-bound convict, serves as the narrator, providing a dark philosophical overview to the action. He introduces many of the characters, giving their names, serial numbers, crime, and sentence while a brief flashback of the crime plays. Tobias Beecher (Lee Tergesen) is out of his element, even in the seemingly safer experimental rehabilitation unit known as "Emerald City," run by well-intentioned control freak Tim McManus (Terry Kinney). Beecher is a former attorney who has been sentenced to 15 years for vehicular manslaughter. Beecher is introduced to his sponsor, Dino Ortolani (Jon Seda), a hot-tempered thug who's connected to Oz's resident Mob boss, Nino Schibetta (Tony Musante). Every new prisoner in "Em City" gets a sponsor, who's supposed to help him adjust, but Ortolani has no use for Beecher, so when Beecher's cellmate, Simon Adebisi (Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje), starts shaking him down, he's on his own. Vern Schillinger (J.K. Simmons) takes an interest, suggesting Beecher ask McManus for a transfer to another cell. Beecher gratefully takes Schillinger's advice, and ends up bunking with him. Then Beecher finds out that his new cellmate runs the Aryan Brotherhood. "You're mine now," Schillinger tells him. He later burns a swastika tattoo into Beecher's buttocks. Ortolani, meanwhile, has his own problems. A hood he shot, Ryan O'Reily (Dean Winters), gets sent to Oz, but Schibetta warns Ortolani against taking revenge. Ortolani also beats a gay prisoner who comes on to him. The cagey O'Reily convinces the gay man's brother, the leader of Emerald City's gangbangers, Jefferson Keane (Leon), to team up with him to arrange for Ortolani's murder.

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prison, inmate, criminal, murder, life-of-crime, maximum-security, unrest, death-row