Dir. Ozgur Yildirim. Germany, 2008, 92 minutes.
Chiko, the protagonist of Ozgur Yildirim’s new Hamburg ghetto melodrama, is a poor kid determined to make his mark and lots of money in his neighbourhood’s fierce drug trade. The predictable chronicle of his rise and fall leaves no hip-hop cliche unexploited.
Chiko could perform well in Germany, since it gives German youth the opportunity to experience this most rehashed of boilerplate immigrant/crime dramas in their own language.
Turkey could be another encouraging market for a film that focuses on characters of Turkish origin struggling between two cultures. English-speaking territories and France won’t be promising markets, however.
Audiences there have seen it all before, and won’t care about the body count in the Hamburg ‘hood.
Future DVD sales could be strong if the career of actor Denis Moschitto (Chiko), the German-born son of Italian and Turkish parents, continues to ascend. And the film couldn’t be a better feature-length commercial for the Mercedes E320, the drug dealer’s car of choice.
Hamburg-born Yildirim builds his story on a culture clash. Chiko and his friends care for their parents and pray in the local mosque. They also sell drugs and long for fast cars, jewelry and respect. After Chiko becomes a dealer for local kingpin Brownie (Blebtreu), his loyalties are torn when a friend, Tibet (Volkan Ozcan), is punished for stealing drugs in the hope of obtaining a new kidney for his Turkish mother.
Tough Chiko also falls for Meryem (played by the rapper Reyhan ‘Lady Bitch Ray’ Sahin), a Turkish prostitute who serves clients noisily in the apartment next door.
The cliches go into automatic once Chiko moves up to coke-dealing and earns enough for the abovementioned Mercedes (in white, with gold wheel-covers).
He decorates a huge new flat for Meryem and attends dutifully to Tibet’s ailing mother. Yet revenge for Tibet’s humiliation takes over, eventually dispatching most of the cast in beatings and shoot-outs to Hamburg-er Heaven, and the cars and furs won’t bring them back. It’s Little Caesar or Scarface all over again, or an updated version of Matthieu Kassovitz’s Hate.
Yildirim, who began with the ghetto short Hard Blood in 1998, finally has a real budget to work with, but Chiko has the generic look of a commercial urban drama, albeit a tediously mechanical one in which fights are shot with a pro-forma rocky hand-held camera and ominous music means that violence is just a few frames away. As if we couldn’t tell.
Denis Moschitto broods like Al Pacino in his more-than-ample close-ups, although Moschitto does look good shot by DP Matthias Bolliger. So does his car, which gets almost as much screen time.
Other cast members march in lock-step with the demands of the story, to the point of a swaggering unintentional humour.
The total absence of German police and of echt-German characters, except for a local drug dealer strong-armed by Chiko, is an implicit critique of official indifference to the immigrant neighborhood’s drug wars and their many innocent casualties. All those wounded, however, are treated in immaculate German hospitals, regardless of national origin.
Filmforderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein
Kuratorium Junger Deutsher Film
The Match Factory (49-22) 1292-1020
Fahri Ogun Yardim