The story of the rise and redemption of a neo Nazi leader in Germany, this movie lacks the emotional depth when compared to American History X.
We first see the two characters of Heike and Tommy as miscreants in the waning days of Communist East Germany. Typical of many youths of the era they know that the state ideology rings hollow, and spend their days committing minor acts of vandalism and drinking beer.
A minor run in with the law lands Tommy in prison, and upon his return the two hatch a scheme to escape to the west. The plot fails, and they end up in the slammer.
The first part of the movie was pretty good. We see Heiko as a rather naive and well meaning kid, albeit one without much of a backbone. His mother has a rather distant relationship with him, and we see a rather interesting rotation of her male visitors throughout the movie. Unfortunately the film does not really touch upon his feelings on that matter much. Heiko hooks up with a rather wild girl, whose impulsive behavior causes some problems, but he seems to be rather quick to move past the situation.
The character of Tommy is much stronger than that of Heiko. We see he's the more daring of the two, but at the same time has much more strength to his personality than Heiko. Tommy is bad because he wants to be, whereas Heiko is just along for the ride.
Their stay in prison opens the second act of the movie, and here is where the movie hits its peak, and quickly deflates. Prison in East Germany is no different than anywhere else, with the usual plot elements. Heike ends up joining the Nazis for protection, while Tommy manages to escape to the west.
And here is where the movie completely falls apart.
We cut to Tommy returning to East Berlin after the fall of the wall, where he encounters Heiko leading a Nazi rally. Tommy rejoins the movement, and he is somewhat bothered at Heiko's attacks against the Turks and other enemies. There is a death, and the disenchanted Tommy abandons the movement. Heiko is sent out to remove the traitor, and the movie reaches its somewhat predictable finale.
The movie has Acts I, II, and IV, but act III is missing. We have the set up of the story in the first part, the experience of Tommy and Heiko in prison, and then cuts to them reuniting outside of prison. I wanted to see Act III, what happens to Heiko after Tommy escapes, how his indoctrination into the Nazi philosophy takes place, his release from prison, his adjustment to the new Germany, his relationship with his girlfriend and mother as this goes on, etc.
Instead we practically cut from Heiko walking funny in prison to Heiko torching a kebab stand. Before and after works well for diet commercials, but not movies of this sort. The whole point is the process of transformation, and for some reason the director chose to omit this. In American History X this is accomplished through the prison narrative from Derek to Danny. We miss that part here.
That being said, there are a few reasons to see this film. The character of Tommy is well played, Aaron Hildebrand bearing a striking resemblance to Freddie Prinze Jr, which makes it kind of fun to watch. The setting is pretty interesting as well, a time and place gone by.
But overall this movie is missing that certain something to make it rise above mediocrity. To non-German audiences this might be worth while to watch for the sheer novelty value, but if you're looking for some emotional depth to a film, American History X is much better in that department.