Berlin-based filmmaker Matthias Glasner’s sophomore feature, “Sexy Sadie,” more than confirms the original talent shown in last year’s debut, the almost Hal Hartley-ish, no-hopers item “Die Mediocren.” A black, highly amoral comedy about an escaped killer and his femme “hostage,””Sadie” could get Glasner belatedly noticed on the international map through fest and small-screen exposure. He’s certainly one of Germany’s most original and exciting talents at present.
Pre-credits sequence sets the tone of straight-faced humor and unexpected twists, with heartless killer Edgar (Juergen Vogel) visiting prison medic Lucy (Corinna Harfouch), being told he has a malignant brain tumor, pulling a gun and taking her hostage for a few final days outside the slammer. Within minutes, word gets around to his enemies that “Edgar is out!”
Edgar, who’s basically missed the ’90s by being in jail, is introduced to sushi by the self-possessed Lucy. While they’re in mid-repast, a guy (Thomas Heinze) claiming to be his brother bursts into the restaurant with a rod and lectures Edgar for rubbing out their foster family. Seized by one of his recurrent fits, Edgar rubs him out, too.
Thereafter, pic becomes a kind of murderous comic rondo, with Lucy and Edgar traveling to their next location, another of Edgar’s enemies purchasing a handgun from the same dealer (who’s delighted at the sudden upturn in business), and the showdown always leaving the enemy dead.
On the way, however, the apparently fearless Lucy gradually starts to take charge, and the movie develops into an offbeat, romantic road movie. When Edgar, who’s become progressively horny, says he has to make love, Lucy, who claims to have sworn off sex, takes him to a hotel. Subsequent scene — the highlight of the pic — is an outrageously funny, inventive and black set piece that brings all the movie’s strands literally to a climax.
Strikingly shot in B&W, “Sexy Sadie” exists in a world of its own that demands no knowledge of local customs or politics from the viewer. (A Stateside remake would be a breeze.) Highly structured and self-aware, but peopled by engaging characters, it’s one of those rare pics that’s still able to spring surprises and laughs even when the basic structure is clear early on.
The hollow-eyed Vogel, unlikely casting for a natural born killer, is just right for the quirky universe writer-director Glasner constructs. But the knockout performance comes from top-billed east German thesp Harfouch as the highly composed blond doc, who gives even Edgar a run for his money. Poised and controlled, Harfouch quietly anchors the whole crazy pic. Other roles are all well-etched cameos.
Technically, film looks fine on its slim budget, and the copious music track, often accompanying wordless sequences, is a work of art in its own right, moving from bluesy numbers to a lullaby with seamless ease and tony effect.