“Bluff” proceeds to humorously mine the oddball characteristics and denizens of this decidedly low-rent house of corrections, while exploring madcap family dynamics courtesy of Harry’s ability to con prison officials into bunking him in his father’s cell. Male and female inmates have their own sex-talk hot lines, speaking through the pipes that connect the toilets on each of their respective floors. Willi’s convict paramour becomes Marlies’ cellmate, conveniently linking the four main characters in a chatty, ribald coming-of-age meets coming-of-wisdom jail-house tale.
Writer-director Peter Zingler makes his feature film debut, after careers as a novelist and a television writer, following a stint as a burglar that landed him a prison term. Pic presumably draws upon insights drawn from his personal experiences, but “Bluff” is so broadly sketched and shaggy that it doesn’t capitalize on its insider touches, such as the goofy, Rube Goldberg cell-life contraptions, the relationships between guards and inmates and the strange codes of conduct that define the cons.
Perfs range from serviceable to stock, with vet actress Elke Sommer’s turn as Willi’s love interest providing depth as well as comic sparks. Lensing by Jorg Seidl appeared adequate, as viewed on the Beta video provided for the film’s Cannes market screenings.