The triple threat of tight scripting, impassioned playing and fluid helming sells “Chiko” as a forceful Turkish-German “Scarface” set in Hamburg’s rough Dulsberg district. Latest effort from “The Edge of Heaven” director Fatih Akin’s Corazon Intl. production shingle is set to open April 18 in Teuton markets, and has the potential to be a niche draw with popcorn crowds who can get past the subtitles.
Possessed of innate street smarts and a dead-eyed stare, Chiko (Denis Moschitto) dreams of success in the drug trade. His chief liability is combustible best “bro” Tibet (Volkan Ozcan), a blustery fighter who can’t grasp the big picture. Tibet’s mom (Lilay Huser) is undergoing kidney treatments, and the young men chafe at being unable to do more to help her.
Setting his sights on a job with violent local drug kingpin and gregarious family man Brownie (Moritz Bleibtreu), Chiko elbows his hapless mule out of the way and earns the formidable task of moving a great deal of weed in a short time. The only caveat: The product must be sold from an apartment, not on the street.
When Tibet breaks this rule and is spotted selling at a schoolyard, Brownie’s subsequent discipline –a nail in the foot — drives a wedge between the two friends that rears its ugly head when Chiko becomes Brownie’s successful cocaine lieutenant and Tibet sinks into a drug-fuelled anger that manifests itself in revenge.
In his feature debut, author-turned-helmer Ozgur Yildirim displays a fascination with the day-to-day of a drug business that gives pic a fierce veracity. A vigorous montage in which Chiko and Tibet run a booming business from the flat works not only as a genre moment but as social criticism — their clientele is as varied as the new Germany.
Though there’s no “say hello to my little friend” moment in which the protag blows away an army of baddies with automatic weapons, the violence on display is abrupt, intense and intimate. Pic’s unsettling quality is matched by perceptive writing: “I’m not scared of regretting,” Chiko tells hooker-turned-squeeze Meryem (Reyhan Sahin), even as pressure mounts to choose allegiances between Brownie and Tibet. “I regret being scared.”
Thesping authentically sells the complicated emotional chaos of ambition, desperation and fear; Bleibtreu seems to have particular fun with the psychopathic Brownie. Tech package is slick, with pic enveloped in a raft of bass-heavy tunes that serve as the sonic equivalent of protag’s nervous, unbridled ambition.