Lately I've been watching and re-watching many films in my favorite exploitation sub-genre, the Italian Poliziotesschi or Eurocrime- thriller, and it's undoubtedly thanks to those films that I valorized and enjoyed my second viewing of "Salamander" on Belgian television even more than the first time. Apart from the different country setting and not featuring the guerrilla filming-style or overly excessive violence, "Salamander" basically is a Poliziotesschi stretched over 12 episodes. The story of one tough and unbreakable police detective single-handedly battling against an unknown but relentless criminal organization, but even more so against his superiors and the corrupt national legal & political system! Of course I realize this series isn't really modeled after gritty and sleazy Italian cop thrillers, but it was fun to see the same ideas and principles here in a much more polished and prominent (for Belgian standards) TV-format. Of all the great things about this series, the most praiseworthy aspect certainly is the script. The basic idea is already fantastic, but the further unfolding of the mystery, with all its crucial supportive characters and numerous convoluted twists, is so unbelievably compelling and intelligent that it's actually unseen on Belgian television.
Early one morning, well-organized and utterly disciplined men break into the vault of a bank and steal the content of 66 specific safety deposit boxes. The bank in question – Bank Jonckheere - is a private and very prestigious bank, however, and the safe-owners are all highly eminent and influential people (ministers, senators, magistrates, business tycoons, generals
) who use their deposit boxes to safeguard secretive documents like hidden financials, photos of orgies and sexual escapades, blackmail, political cover- ups and slush funds. Whoever owns all this stolen information has the power to destabilize and literally pull the plug out of the entire country, and that is clearly what he/she wants to achieve. Via Joachim Klaus, the top-criminal who organized the heist, the instructor gradually sends back copies of the safes' content to the rightful owners, and abrupt resignations, chaos in the parliament and even suicides immediately ensue. The heist was never reported to the police, for obvious reasons, and the concerned magistrates are holding off an investigation. Inspector Paul Gerardi nevertheless examines a tip from an informant and quickly ends up in a position that put his career, healthy and loved ones in great danger.
With all the scandals and corruption that occurred here in Belgium during the past 20-25 years, the script of "Salamander" becomes extra realistic and plausible. I'm convinced that every fellow Belgian who watched this series also thought at one point or another (and probably several times): "Surely this is really going on in those ivory towers in Brussels". The mystery around the bank heist is upheld very admirably and, in the end, all the little pieces of the large puzzle neatly fit together. "Salamander" contains a lot of action compared to traditional Belgian detective/krimi-series, and every episode features at least a few grisly murders, violent shootouts or wild chases. The acting performances are really high- level, with familiar and famous Belgian faces even in the smallest supportive roles. Everybody gives stellar performances, and several cast members even play their best roles in many years, like Jo De Meyere, Mike Verdrengh, Vic De Wachter and An Ceurvels. The second season will start airing on Belgian TV soon, early 2018, I think.