A country cop vs. an urban serial killer provides Teuton genre writer-director Christian Alvart with a primal if standard dramatic fulcrum for his slick thriller, "Antibodies." Not content with a straight psychological police procedural, Alvart mixes in distracting -- and unconvincing --Biblical symbolism in a curious bid for weightiness.

A country cop vs. an urban serial killer provides Teuton genre writer-director Christian Alvart with a primal if standard dramatic fulcrum for his slick thriller, “Antibodies.” Not content with a straight psychological police procedural, Alvart mixes in distracting — and unconvincing –Biblical symbolism in a curious bid for weightiness. Pic’s blatant borrowings from “Silence of the Lambs,” as well as swift pacing, helped it earn 180,000 admissions during local midsummer engagements, which may signal solid returns in Euro urban markets.

Captured during the physically stark opening sequence, serial murderer Engel (Andre Hennicke) is grilled about 14 boys who were killed. Another murder victim, a girl from the town of Herzbach, nearly fits Engel’s profile as well. In Herzbach, part-time police officer Michael (Wotan Wilke Mohring) alienates some of the locals during the Engel manhunt, including Sucharzewski (Jurgen Schornagel), who Michael suspects is really the girl’s murder.

However, Michael seems a poor choice to investigate the girl’s murder as his teenage son Christian is revealed to have been intimate with the girl. But true to genre demands, Michael ventures to the city to face Engel mano a mano. The killer, a cartoonish version of a homicidal madman that exists only in the movies, insists that he had nothing to do with the girl’s death.

Unfortunately, at this point Alvart attempts to make the drama appear more profound than it really is. As Christian exhibits all the classic signs of a serial killer, Michael imagines the worst and nearly goes mad playing out a rather preposterous re-enactment of the Biblical story of Abraham attempting to sacrifice his son Isaac. While this may impress some viewers as a thriller reaching for ideas, others will find it strained and pretentious.

Thesp Mohring owns the movie, firmly establishing Michaelas a rock-ribbed believer who fears God and a stern domestic taskmaster who faces temptation. As Engel, Hennicke turns a hammy role into too much of a good thing.

Technically sleek package, led by Hagen Bogdanski’s pro anamorphic lensing, is apropos of the current crop of glossy German thrillers.

Antibodies

Germany

Production

A Kinowelt Filmverleih release (in Germany) of a Kinowelt Filmproduktion presentation of a Medienkontor production. (International sales: Telepool, Munich.) Produced by Theo Baltz, Boris Schonfelder. Co-producers, Rainer Kolmel, Christian Alvart. Directed, written by Christian Alvart.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Hagen Bogdanski; editor, Philipp Stahl ; music, Michl Britsch ; production designer, Christian M. Goldbeck; art director, Eva Maria Stiebler; costume designer, Silke Sommer; makeup, Annett Schulze ; sound (Dolby Digital), Jerome Burkhard; sound designer, Jurgen Funk; visual effects supervisors, Dominik Trimborn, Katja Muller; stunt coordinator, Rainer Werner; assistant director, Bruno Grass; casting, Sabine Frielinghaus. Reviewed at AFI Los Angeles Film Festival, Nov. 7, 2005. (Also in Tribeca, Edinburgh and San Sebastian film festivals.) Running time: 127 MIN.

With

Wotan Wilke Mohring, Andre Hennicke, Heinz Hoenig, Ulrike Krumbiegel, Hauke Diekamp, Jurgen Schornagel.

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