Die Musterknaben (lit. The Prigs) is the inaugural episode of three made for TV police flicks, and earned a VFF TV-Movie Award.
Surprisingly, the mini-series is quite unknown even in Germany - and undeservedly at that.
The main characters, which are superbly played by Juergen Tarrach and Oliver Korittke, are archetypal urban anti-heroes, be it professionally, or in their private lives. They are chronically unmotivated and usually only excel to impress women. When doing the latter, they try to outdo each other, but ultimately always fail to land with the target of their affection. However, it leads to the case they are working on being solved, more or less as a by-product.
The outward appearance of the slightly chubby Tarrach, and the skinny Korittke, is not coincidentally calling on images of the legendary Hardy/Laurel duo. The two are constantly slagging each other in funny, yet intelligent and witty dialogues.
The plot isn't anything to write home about, but is set dead centre lower middle class in one of Germany's biggest cities, oozing local colour. It not only picks heavily on stereotypes associated with this milieu, it brilliantly persiflages it with loving attention to detail.
Add to this the hierarchy within the German state police, with which the two main protagonists often clash, and some corrupt undercover DEA officers, which have long switched sides, and you have a nicely satirical and entertaining take on 'serious' German police series.
Whoever falls for the comparatively (and not only by Gone in 60 Seconds standards) lame pursuit in Bullitt to be the best car chase scene ever filmed, hasn't seen this movie.
The original Gone in 60 Seconds out-chases, out-crashes, out-everythings every other movie containing a car chase scene. It contains real accidents which happened during filming, therefore a lot of the 'stunts' do appear 'natural' and not staged, as is so often the case with car crashes in movies.
For mega-car crash fans it is the benchmark of the genre, untopped to this day. For all others, it is 90 minutes of yawning boredom.
A Tremendoulsy Overlooked And Underrated German Comedy
At first glance, one could think the movie just unashamedly copies the stereotypical Hollywood gangster movie. But nothing could be further from the truth. The film is a total persiflage on the genre, setting a typical and deliberately shallow plot into Germany's industrial heartland - the Ruhr area. There it is staged with loads of local colour and bizarre details not necessarily related to the actual plot, the latter obviously 'borrowed' from Takashi Miike movies.
Der Eisbär not only holds its own when it comes to gangster flicks, it's a standout. Rarely has a movie taken on the genre and rendered it what it really is in all its ridiculousness. The love for details is extraordinary and the situational humour spot on, but not as overdone as it often is the case in American productions.
Add to this supporting roles filled with the who is who of the German film and entertainment industry, most notable an -as usual- brilliant Juergen Tarrach as the bomb constructor, Ralph Herforth and Ralf Richter as undercover cops, comedian Tom Gerhardt as the manager of the fast food restaurant, and character actress and internationally acclaimed director Katharina Thalbach in a tiny appearance, sleeping off her intoxication in the "Pauls Eck" pub during the final stand-off.
Der Eisbär is a masterpiece. Totally misunderstood by many, it has acquired a cult following among the ones in the know.