Lethal Obsession


[a.k.a. Der Joker]
Dir: Peter Patzak
Star: Peter Maffay, Tawnee Welch, Massimo Ghini, Michael York

This 1987 German thriller feels off-centre, largely because York and Elliott Gould are relegated to supporting roles, while the star is Eurorocker Maffay. It's as if there's another film somewhere, centred on the English-speaking actors and their struggle to control Hamburg's underworld. Instead, we get cop Jan Bogdan (Maffay), out for revenge on the bombers who confined him to a wheelchair, while coming to terms with the fact that his girl has been sleeping with his partner. However, is someone manipulating Bogdan in his lust for vengeance? After an incomprehensible start, this improves significantly, though I was unhappy with the last ten minutes, which seem like something a schoolkid would write.

Generally, however, this captures the grubby nature of crime and criminals with an appropriately jaundiced air, and the North German setting is a fresh touch. Also look for Monika Bleibtreu, the blind woman from Run Lola Run (and the mother of the actor who played Manni too), in a small role as a prostitute. Overall, this ends up only one good performance away from successful; the bad news is, Maffay's the problem, staggering through the entire production with one expression and an equally limited range of emotion. He hampers the film badly, despite the best efforts of the rest of the cast - you can only wonder what someone like, oh, Klaus Kinski might have done with the role.

C+
February 2005


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