We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
A plea to all foreign film directors: Stop trying to keep tired American genres alive! The last thing the world needs is another dimly lit, green-tinted killer thriller. True, Erik Skjoldbjærg did such a good job with Insomnia that it was remade for American audiences by Christopher Nolan, but a vicious circle is a vicious circle—especially if your movie can best be summed up as the German equivalent of Se7en. And so it goes with director Robert Schwentke’s 2002 feature debut: Much like Tell Me Something, 1999’s South Korean version of Se7en, Tattoo adds nothing but locale to a tried and true Yankee formula. Schrader (August Diehl) is the quintessential rookie cop with a bad attitude—so of course he’s recruited into the homicide department by his quintessentially grizzled superior Minks (Christian Redl). Seems a corpse has just turned up—minus, naturally, the part that features a large Japanese tattoo. Soon the two cops are drawn into an underworld of eccentric collectors who pay handsomely for the art off people’s bodies, whether living or dead, whether given voluntarily or not. They also meet mysterious femme fatale Maya (Nadeshda Brennicke), whose dubious motives are overtly (if icily) telegraphed from her first scene. From the endlessly rain-soaked nighttime shots to a character receiving a chunk of a loved one in the mail, Schwentke takes every opportunity to copy David Fincher’s 1995 hit—and crib a bit from The Silence of the Lambs, too—while missing every opportunity for originality. His script is clunky, as well, with four separate instances of a character accidentally running into the exact person needed to advance the plot and a twist ending so throwaway it feels made up on the spot. But then again, maybe Schwentke can advance American cinema after all: With the help of a few German lessons, he could give Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd more work than they know what to do with.