Saturday, 14 August 2010

Chiko, Özgür Yildirim, Germany 2008

One could easily dismiss Yildrim's film as yet another German Mean Streets set in Germany's immigrant community, if it wouldn't make for such compelling viewing. Like a string of similarly themed films, Chiko, too, takes place in Hamburg. This may be explained by the fact that it was produced by Fatih Akin's Corazon Films, and with Hamburg being Akin's home town it is also the base of his production company.

An edge-of-your-seat thriller, Chiko has doom written all over it and with its fratricide at the end, it actually has all the makings of a Greek tragedy. Volkan Oezcan and Denis Moschitto play two friends - Tibet and Chiko - who are so close that they consider themselves brothers. Driven by dreams of easy cash for fast cars and trashy women they get involved with big-time drug-dealer Brownie, played by Moritz Bleibtreu, only that Tibet decides to skim some of Brownie's money to buy a kidney for his mother, who depends on weekly visits to the hospital for dialysis. Once Brownie gets wise to Tibet, he gets on Brownie's bad side, and it's a really bad one. While at first Chiko still stands by his brother manqué, his yearning for the lush life eventually make him turn against Tibet. Chiko goes on to garner brownie point after brownie point with Brownie, especially after a drug deal gone awry in which Chiko narrowly avoids getting killed.

The tides turn towards the end when two of Brownie's cronies are on the hunt for Tibet for having tried to finish off Brownie. Although Tibet's attempt at shooting down his former boss was unsuccessful, Brownie demands his head, and while turning the flat Tibet inhabits with his mother upside down, Brownie's cronies accidentally kill his mother. Earlier on in the film Chiko mentions how he regards "Tibet's mother as also being his own". No surprise then, that her killing puts him in a fury that results in him shooting down Brownie. Tibet, however, is absolutely inconsolable over the loss of his mother, and blaming Chiko for her demise, he stabs him to death before, it is suggested, turning the knife on himself.

Yes, there sure is a lot going on in a mere 90 minutes and there certainly is enough violence to put Tarantino and Scorsese (in his heydey) to shame as virtually every protagonist in the film gets killed. But as I said above, although Chiko could be dismissed as little more than a German version of Mean Streets while the genre it helped create is akin to a German-Turkish version of the Blaxploitation films of the 1970s, Yildrim's film no doubt is very absorbing and well crafted. Fast paced, well acted, and peppered with snappy dialogues which, sadly, don't always translate well into English, Chiko offers a different, fascinating, side to German cinema, though one which, at least in the Anglo-Saxon world, is still largely ignored.

Watch the trailer to Chiko here!

Chiko is out on DVD.