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  • 18
  • Crime, Drama
  • 2008
  • 92 mins

Chiko

Chiko

Synopsis

The debut feature of writer Özgür Yildrim is a tense crime thriller set on the mean streets of Hamburg's suburban ghetto

About

Isa Çikar (Denis Moschitto) is a young man of contradictions. He is a low-level thug and drug dealer but also conflicted father to a young girl. He is Turkish but his home is in Dulsberg, Hamburg. He is a Muslim but his forename is the Arabic for Jesus - while he prefers to go by the nickname Chiko that is tattooed on his arm, and that makes him sound like a Hispanic punk on America's mean streets. His empty rhetoric about respect and power has a similar effect, like some misplaced parody of the Stateside cant of self-improvement.

Özgür Yildirim, writer/director of Chiko, has described his feature debut as "my Scarface set in a Hamburg suburban ghetto" - and sure enough, like Scarface's Tony Montana, Chiko wants to rise to the very top of the drug trade in the country that he has adopted as his own, while all the characters here, despite the German setting, self-consciously model their criminality on a mediated version of the American dream.

If the ultimate desire of Chiko's hot-headed 'bro' Tibet (Volkan Özcan) is to own 'far-out cars' with his name on them, then it is an ambition expressly fuelled by The Fast And The Furious. If violent druglord (and loving family man) Brownie (Moritz Bleibtreu) metes out particularly savage punishments on those who cross him, then it comes as no surprise that he is a fan of the Rambo films. Chiko will discuss identity and faith with Turkish prostitute Meryem (Reyhan Sahin) in a restaurant that simulates the look of an American diner from the late 1950s. And later, when Tibet becomes increasingly isolated and enraged, he expresses his sense of betrayal by playing guns with his own mirror image and shaving off his hair, before going out on a pistol-toting rampage - in other words, he is channelling the spirit of Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle.

Yildirim, however, is less interested in slavishly following his American models than in showing how the new Germany assimilates - sometimes imperfectly - all manner of influences. When Chiko and his 'ethnic' crew set up shop in an apartment to sell their "kick-ass weed", we see in montage all aspects of German society parading through their door to make a purchase. The sheer variety of their clientele, coming from all classes and cultures, is not without its contradictions - which brings us back to the contradictory Chiko himself, and the way that he will inevitably (which is to say, predictably) be torn apart by his conflicting allegiances, as he must decide between old friendship, new love and driving ambition.

As a vibrant snapshot of the underbelly of modern cosmopolitan life, as an exposé of the food chain in illegal narcotics trade, or even as a local variant in genre cinema, Chiko delivers the expected quality product. Moschitto, however, proves just as unable to carry the film as his character fails to cope with all the pressures around him. With a facial expression that oscillates between sullen resentment and furrowed anxiety, he lacks the requisite charisma to make other characters, or indeed viewers, invest in him, so that the trust and friendship which Brownie so quickly (and crucially) bestows upon Chiko is never really plausible. The more seasoned Bleibtreu, by contrast, offers a masterclass in psychopathic charm that, while entertaining, serves further to expose his co-star's shortcomings.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Volkan Özcan, Moritz Bleibtreu, Reyhan Sahin, Denis Moschitto, Fahri Ogün Yardim
  • Director: Özgür Yildirim
  • Screen Writer: Özgür Yildirim
  • Producer: Andreas Thiel, Klaus Maeck, Fatih Akin

In a nutshell

In Özgür Yildirim's vibrant thriller, the exigencies of genre clash with the realities of Germany's urban multiculturalism - but a bland central performance, and a paucity of surprises, hinder its rise to the top of the drug-movie hierarchy.

by Anton Bitel

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