Short Sharp Shock (1998)

Akin’s entertaining debut feature about gangsterism, brotherhood and petty crime may be raw and occasionally uneven, but it possesses a spirit so vital to the portrayal of multiculturalism in late ‘90s German filmmaking. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,561

Dir. Fatih Akin
1998 | Germany | Drama/Crime | 100 min | 1.85:1 | German, Greek & Turkish
Not rated – likely to be M18 for violence and sexual scene

Cast: Mehmet Kurtulus, Aleksandar Jovanovic, Adam Bousdoukos
Plot: Gabriel, Bobby and Costa are old friends from Altona, a multicultural hood in Hamburg. Just out of prison, Gabriel wants to turn his back on crime, but the others continue to operate as petty criminals.
Awards: Won Special Prize & Nom. for Golden Leopard (Locarno)
International Sales: The Match Factory

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Brotherhood; Immigrants; Crime
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

Best known for his Berlinale Golden Bear-winning Head-On (2004) and Cannes Best Screenplay winner The Edge of Heaven (2007), Fatih Akin is one of Germany’s key post-2000s filmmakers. 

His debut feature, Short Sharp Shock, is already a teasing snapshot of what is to come.  Like its intriguing title, the film is economically-told, piercing in its depiction of human emotion and startling in its raw power. 

There is a new (rebel) kid in the block vibe with Akin’s filmmaking here, best described as Mean Streets (1973) in Hamburg, as it centers on Gabriel, who is released from prison and joins his two petty crime buddies, Bobby and Costa.  Gabriel however vows to stay clean but is forced to take matters into his own hands when Bobby and Costa get caught up with the local mafia. 

“He wants to grow up, and we’re holding him back.”

It’s an entertaining film, even though some might find it occasionally uneven.  Most importantly, Akin’s work possesses a spirit so vital to the portrayal of multiculturalism in late ‘90s German filmmaking.  Gabriel is Turkish, while Bobby and Costa are Serbian and Greek respectively, all immigrants trying to pull their weight in a new country but inevitably fall into a life of crime. 

The actors who play them are terrific and explosive, fuelled with the requisite anger and frustration at the circumstances that befall their characters, though these problems are largely the result of chronic naivety, oversized egos and poor decisions. 

Short Sharp Shock may pit its characters against a harsh, unsavoury world, but Akin finds a sense of brotherhood among the trio, even as it is torn apart and reshaped in irreversible ways. 

Grade: B+



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