The Kings Surrender: A captivating genre film
by Stefan Dobroiu
- Violent and intense, Philipp Leinemann’s second feature is competing for the Transilvania Trophy
Opening with a quote by Goethe, “Fearful is the last glance of injured innocence”, The Kings Surrender [+see also:
film profile] is not your regular festival film. Shown in competition at the Transilvania International Film Festival (29 May – 7 June), Philipp Leinemann’s violent and gritty noir is a complex cops-and-crooks action-drama that will lure the audience into a grey world where both small mistakes and corruption will have serious consequences.
In an unnamed city, a division of the SEK, the German SWAT equivalent, prepares to enter the apartment of a drug dealer. The pressure is almost unbearable, as all of the men under the command of Kevin (Ronald Zehrfeld) and Mendes (Misel Maticevic) know that the smallest mistake will be a further motive for the upper echelons of the police to cut costs and reduce the number of SEK divisions. The mission goes awry and a policeman is shot, but this opening brimming with adrenaline is only the beginning of an elaborate, complicated story featuring dozens of characters: policemen, gangsters and the shady guys with interests in the two groups.
What is impressive about the screenplay written by Leinemann himself is that it offers much more than just the usual clashes between two very different categories of characters. There are characters in The Kings Surrender that easily convey the feeling that no one, least of all the innocent ones, is exempt from the icy grip of crime. One such person is young Nasim (Mohammed Issa), the 13-year-old son of an immigrant shop owner, who desperately wants to be part of a group of “bad boys” led by Thorsten (Tilman Strauss). Another is Thorsten’s closest friend, Ioannis (Oliver Konietzny), who will be at the centre of a ruthless fight between bad cops, good cops and rival gangs.
Leinemann’s screenplay also convincingly shows how easy it is to make a bad decision and then try to cover it up with another bad decision and so on, until one finds that one has reached the point of no return, when loyalty to one’s peers means acting as judge and jury.
With such a treasure-trove full of rich characters, the film will require the cinemagoer’s full attention, but it will not be without reward, as the writer-director has succeeded in creating an engrossing and violent symphony of crime from which no one escapes unscathed. It is to the merit of DoP Christian Stangassinger and editors Max Fey and Jochen Retter that the events shown on the big screen are always clear, no matter how ambiguous the protagonists’ intentions are.
The winner of the Best Cinematography Award at this year’s Bavarian Film Awards, The Kings Surrender is up against some strong titles in the TIFF competition. Even if Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov's The Lesson [+see also:
interview: Kristina Grozeva, Petar Val…
interview: Margita Gosheva
film profile], Grímur Hákonarson's Rams [+see also:
interview: Grimur Hakonarson
film profile] or Bernard Bellefroid's Melody [+see also:
interview: Bernard Bellefroid
film profile] seem better equipped to impress the festival's international jury, Leinemann’s second feature may be the underdog ready to snatch an award.