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Sam de Jong's film tells the story of a Dutch-Moroccan teen trying to find his way to some level of power in a life that seems to be veering so far out of his control he is slipping into despair.
He strikes some gold thanks to a solid cast, most especially Ayoub Elasri in the title role.
The film is overly-stylized and not in a good way. Pretty to look at, but it gets in the way of the a story that seems to be set in the reality of lower-class Amsterdam. The film deals with poor parenting, drug addiction, bullying, peer pressure and the criminal underground.
The entire film is presented in shiny color as if any minute it is going to morph into a mix of "Napoleon Dynamite" merged with "United Colors of Benetton" -- all with 80's synth music. In fact, the tidy ending seems like a clip from some Euro-Fashion Advert.
Despite some strong performances and several powerful scenes, the film offers some entertainment but is ultimately limp.
It's a bummer that the return of Peter Greenaway is not a better film. This movie will wear thin quickly -- even for film geeks like myself. This is an organized mess. Greenaway is clearly having fun. Too bad he didn't include his audience in this twisted celebration.
It is to Christian Petzold's credit that over the course of his career he has so lovingly re-worked some American movies into films that manage to retain themes but modulate them into something altogether unique from the sources of origin. This is clever new take on "The Postman Always Rings Twice." I do not know for sure, but I would suspect Petzold is reworking the 1981 film remake than the original 1940's Film Noir or the infamous novel. The key is that it doesn't really matter. A Hollywood idea has been re-booted to serve as societal commentary regarding modern Germany. Everything from trying to regain footing after serving in a pointless war to attempting to lead a rewarding life without crime to the racism regarding immigrants and immigration -- all support the tawdry plot. Unlike Hollywood of the 1940's or 1980's -- this film is not consumed with eroticism. You may not notice it until after you step away, but this is actually an adult study of loneliness, isolation and the human need for hope. This film is not as stylized as one might expect, but it is surprisingly realistic and entertaining.