22 February 2016 | t_atzmueller
Double-whammy with extra ham and cheese; a guilty pleasure of its time.
To make a simple story short: the city of Hamburg is plagued by organized crime. There seems to be a looming turf war between rivaling mob fractions and tough-as-nails cop Jan Bogdan (Peter Maffay), together with his partner and best friend Tony (Massimo Ghini), who is having an affair with his girlfriend Daniela (Tahnee Welch), is investigating. Of course this soon makes him a target and Bogdan loses both his ability to walk and his police license in a bomb-attack. Sitting in a wheelchair, Bogdan is still tough-as-nails and seeks revenge on his own – seemingly aided by the mysterious assassin Dr. Proper (Michael York), whereby the word "seemingly" plays a huge role in the world of crime.
I'd go as far as to call "Der Joker" a paradox of its own making: First, let's talk about the good things: the supporting cast is altogether great. Albeit all just having minor roles, actors like Armin Müller-Stahl, Michael York (a highlight in this film), Elliot Gould, Monika Bleibtreu or Karl Merkatz (beloved by Austrian viewers as "Mundl") all rattle their stuff down as professionally as is required. The soundtrack, yes, it is cheesier than a Swiss fondue (produced by ex-Rainbow keyboard-player Tony Carey and Maffay himself), but at the same time catches the 'vibe' of the 80's, stuck solidly in Soft-Rock-ballads and tons of hairspray.
Maffay is of course the center-figure of the whole film. The Romanian born musician is best known for composing schmaltzy Pop-songs and his social-engagement regarding children during the 80s and 90s. Maffay may be many things, but an actor he is not. The opposite is true. It's almost painful to see him try to mimic and pose through the film, almost like watching a toddler trying to crawl across a busy highway. If you want to sum up Maffays facial expression in one word, the first word that comes to mind is "congested" and seeing him try to press out his dialog raises no other sentiment than that of "Schadenfreude". Yet, Maffay stoically struts through his stuff, as if trying to emulate Sylvester Stallone in his early roles (which naturally fails as well), presumably while his more professional co-stars were trying to suppress hysterical gigging. Raquel Welch-daughter Tahnee doesn't fare much better: she may have inherited the looks of her mother, but literally none of her acting-skills.
Patzak, a veteran of Austro-German TV, is doing a job as competent as you'd expect from the director. He'll forever be known as director of the Austrian cult-series "Kottan ermittelt", an anarchistic parody of German TV-crime-series. However, Patzak himself never seems quite sure, whether he wanted to produce an action-filled US-flick a la Stallone's "Nighthawks", an equally action-filled variation of the Schimanski "Tatort" TV-films or a tribute to the Italian Poliziotteschi–genre. There are strong elements of all three genres, which may not be the most imaginative, but makes "Der Joker" great fun nevertheless – if you're into those movies, that is. Needless to say that "Der Joker", despite all his flaws (or perhaps because of them?), has his cult-following and is on his own ground rather recommendable. Whether you're looking for a down-to-earth crime-thriller or a performance that goes back from bad to simply hilarious. 6/10