Truth be told, I could have done without the German holiday line-dancing in the finale.
There are plenty of times co-writer/director Detlev Buck (“Hands off Mississippi”) tosses a few too many balls in the air — characters to follow, subtexts that add “threads” that we’ve got to keep straight, and we’re not sure that he is either.
And “Wir können nicht anders,” aka “Christmas Crossfire” teases us that it’s going to reach some sort of “Die Hard Yule” climax that truthfully, it never does.
But for a dizzy, violent off-the-wall comic thriller (in German with English subtitles), this isn’t half bad.
Just from looking at her, you can tell that Edda (Alli Neumann) is the sort of fetching fraulien used to getting men to do just what she wants. She’s in tears, her makeup smeared. And poor Sam (Kostja Ullmann) is putty in her presence.
“I only sleep with guys with coats like that when the police are after me,” she purrs, and before he knows it, they’re doing vodka shots, he’s picking up the tab, she’s gone back to his Mercedes camper van with him, shedding clothing as further things transpire.
She wants to go somewhere and he’s driving her. She wants to pull off the road in the woods and have another shirtless go of it. And that’s when he hears the shouting and stumbles out of the van and into a mob execution, which he interrupts the way a college professor (“ASSISTANT professor!”) might.
“I wouldn’t do that.“
It sounds no more menacing in German than it does in English.
Next thing we know, he’s on the run with Rudi (Merlin Rose), the would-be victim he just saved and a bit of a myopic ingrate, she’s left the van and lost him and hunting for help and there are all these storylines to follow, plot threads to pick up.
Hermann (Sascha Alexander Gersak) is the vaping thug running the show. He’s got a beef with Rudi over a beautiful woman (Sophia Thomalla), chasing all over BFE Germany with his gang in Dodge Ram pickups while Edda is finding the local cop (Frederic Linkemann) who is piggishly unprofessional and more interested in her than helping her and her “boyfriend” because they have “history” and this dying town is what she fled.
Rudi and Sam? They’re trapped by some older crank with an AK-47 and a date with a sauna.
There’s Christmas decor everywhere. Hermann’s family, led by wheelchair-bound brother Sigi (director Detlev Buck), is having a party and lamenting that they’re heavily invested in a planned redevelopment that’s gone south. And the locals have a reluctant tolerance of the new (African and North African) immigrants who sneak out to cut down Christmas trees on public land or sew up bad guys who get stabbed in a knife fight they have no one but themselves to blame for.
Stabbings, shootings, kidnappings and escapes ensue among the “Verdammte Schweine!” mixed up in all this.
It’s not quite up to the tempo of a screwball farce, although the script has that complexity. The jokes are droll and sly, like Sam hiding behind a tombstone that reads “Died too soon.” For some odd reason, a lot of these hicks are wearing uniforms, and not just the rapey cop.
Ullmann has a bit of Jeff Daniels in “Something Wild” about him, an academic out of his depth, but lost in lust over this libidinous blonde pixie.
“What do you WANT with me? I had nothing to do with this!”
“That’s the problem, isn’t it? No one wants to STEP UP” these days.
Gersak is ferocious and menacing, and Neumann makes Edde beguiling, a bit lost and yet not to be trifled with.
There is no real “Christmas Crossfire” worthy of the title. But it holds your attention as on and on it goes, grimly violent but glibly fun. And remember, if you stay to the end, there’s line dancing.
MPA Rating: TV-MA, violence, nudity, sex, smoking and profanity
Cast: Kostja Ullmann, Alli Neumann, Sascha Alexander Gersak, Merlin Rose, Frederic Linkemann and Detlev Buck.
Credits: Directed by Detlev Buck, script by Martin Behnke, Detlev Buck. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:45