Saturday 18 November 2023

TV review: Dogs of Berlin, Netflix (2018)

One of the great things about Netflix is the ability to reach into different cultures when viewing entertainment. ‘Dogs of Berlin’ came out five years ago but still seems topical. The main story is about a police officer from East Germany (before combination, though the drama is set in the contemporary era of 2018 or thereabouts) named Kurt Grimmer (Felix Kramer) who has a family as well as a second family with girlfriend Bine (Anna Maria Muhe) who has problems with substance abuse and money. Kurt’s wife Paula (Katharina Schuttler) runs a gift shop and looks after the two kids but Paula isn’t happy with Kurt who, like many cops it seems, is always out of the house busy with his work.

Paula might seem to present few options for scriptwriters but she is interesting in many ways. She starts having an affair with an extortionist who comes to her shop to get protection money. She also has problems with her social services placement who bashes her and ransacks the shop, destroying displays. Then there’s Erol Birkan (Farhi Yardim), Kurt’s partner, who is of Turkish background like the soccer player who brings the two together and whose death starts the drama. The police hierarchy bring in Birkan because of cultural sensitivities considering the large population of people from Turkey in the German capital.

Now things get complicated because Kurt used to be a neo-Nazi and still has links to the group through his brother and mother. They’re also complicated by the fact that Birkan is gay and has problems with his conservative father.

This isn’t a show to watch in the background because it’s all in German so you have to see words on the screen to get subtitles, but it brought me back day after day (it runs to 10 eps) because of the intricacy of the plot and because of the excellent casting. Sinan Farhangmehr for example is great as Hakim Tarik-Amir, the Turkish crime boss, a crazy psychopath who by turns terrorises and attracts people around him and whose paranoia leads to a dramatic conclusion. There’s also Kais Setti as Hakim’s brother Kareem who has almost as much potency as the capo but who manages to be vulnerable at the same time. Where Hakin is bullet-proof Kareen is sensitive and aspirational, he just wants to become the capo like his brother.

Now ‘Dogs of Berlin’ is, like most cop shows, larger than life and hyperbolic, I’m sure though I’ve never been to Germany and I don’t speak the language well enough to follow the news on the media websites published there. Granted that a soccer player with a gold Lamborghini isn’t regularly assassinated in the street. But gambling and drugs goes on everywhere and someone must manage it, why not Turks? In Australia we’ve always had ethnic crime gangs managing the distribution of drugs – Vietnamese, Lebanese, Romanian, Italian – so why not Turks in Berlin? I totally get the accusations of racism, but note how the filmmakers use a new-Nazi group in their script to blunt such barbs. In fact I would absolutely believe that a larger-than-life character like Hakim Tariq-Amir could be in charge of tens of millions of dollars’ worth of drug business.

Bite me.

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