When a nurse is murdered, ambulance drivers turn detectives in this winning Austrian black comedy by director Wolfgang Murnberger ("Heaven or Hell," "I Swear"). Meaty script based on a cult crime novel by Wolfgang Haas combines the best of both genres, comedy and crime, to thoroughly entertain.

When a nurse is murdered, ambulance drivers turn detectives in this winning Austrian black comedy by director Wolfgang Murnberger (“Heaven or Hell,” “I Swear”). Meaty script based on a cult crime novel by Wolfgang Haas combines the best of both genres, comedy and crime, to thoroughly entertain. “Come, Sweet Death” emerged as one of the more salable pics at Rotterdam, with few cultural obstacles to keep it from working theatrically in other Euro territories.

Deadpan cabaret star Josef Hader plays former detective Brenner, a moody, down-at-heel loser who is kicked off the force for sleeping with the chief’s wife. A hilarious sight gag involving an out-of-control car flying over a meadow full of sheep sets the scene for the arrival of the ambulance he now drives for a private company that’s at war with a rival first aid service.

A droll offscreen narrator offers info on Brenner, who is shown relaxing at home with a joint, some Jack Daniels and “Hey Joe” blaring on the stereo.

Other characters are equally sharp. The cool floozy Angelika (Nina Proll) shows her scorn for cocky driver Gross by giving him oral sex in front of the whole ambulance corps. Her opposite number is sultry sophisticate Klara (Barbara Rudnik), a schoolmate of Brenner’s who turns up in an ambulance that breaks down.

The crazy drivers, who could have stepped out of a comic version of “Bringing Out the Dead,”suddenly come face to face with a gruesome murder that Brenner, his mate Berti (puppy-faced Simon Schwarz) and Klara solve in a grand ambulance chase around town. The murder even has a decently plausible solution.

Editor Evi Romen makes intelligent use of a fast rhythm and lively gags that, unlike many comedies, are in the service of the story. The same can be said for a cute score, credited to the Sofa Surfers.

Come, Sweet Death

Austria

Production

A Dor Film production. (International sales: Dor Film, Vienna.) Produced by Kurt Stocker, Danny Krausz. Directed by Wolfgang Murnberger. Screenplay, Murnberger, Wolfgang Haas, Josef Hader, based on Haas' novel.

Crew

Camera (color), Peter von Haller; editor, Evi Romen; music, Sofa Surfers; production designers, Renate Martin, Andreas Donhauser; costume designer, Martina List; sound (Dolby Digital SRD), Heinz Ebner; casting, Barbara Vogel. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (Main Program), Jan. 26, 2001. Running time: 108 MIN.

With

Brenner - Josef Hader Klara - Barbara Rudnik Angelika - Nina Proll Berti - Simon Schwarz Junior - Michael Schonborn
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more