While interning at a hospital in Cali, Colombia, an idealistic young physician from Frankfurt (hot Teuton star August Diehl, “The Counterfeiters”) naively interferes in favela turf wars with predictably bloody results in German helmer Tom Schreiber’s “Dr. Aleman.” Slick Spanish-language soap opera plays like an extended episode of “ER,” albeit with more explicit sex, in which an impetuous doctor (similar to Dr. Carter from the NBC TV series) takes matters into his own hands, causes considerable grief and ultimately comes away sadder if not exactly wiser. Pic is apt to find its greatest success in ancillary.
Barely allowed time to catch his breath after his long journey, 26-year-old Marc (charmer Diehl, doing fine in Spanish) is thrust into action in the grim Cali hospital ER, assigned to remove a bullet from a gangland victim. Widescreen closeups of the blood-gushing surgery epitomize the pic’s overall lack of restraint.
Rejecting the cynicism and hypocrisy of his colleagues, Marc is drawn to the slum area of Siloe and kindly kiosk owner Wanda (Marleyda Soto, a stage actress who fails to generate much screen presence), who acts as surrogate mother to some of the neighborhood’s young drug dealers. In melodramatic plot twists that feel out of character, Marc indulges in cocaine and wild antics with prostitutes before starting an affair with Wanda. Despite his rote professions of love, their relationship never yields any heat due to lack of chemistry between the leads and the script’s failure to construct a plausible mutual attraction.
When Marc witnesses an execution by feared gang leader El Juez (Victor Villegas, a non-pro discovered in a Cali acting workshop), the stage is set for various acts of revenge. Building to some risible twists as the body count rises, the narrative literally and figuratively cops out at end.
Unsubtle script by Oliver Keidel and Schreiber is based on letters the helmer received from a physician friend practicing in Colombia. Mostly filmed on real Cali locations, Olaf Hirschberg’s lensing alternates between flashy and gritty. Remainder of tech package is pro, though the shrill, overloud score by Josef Suchy quickly wears out its welcome.
Title, which uses the Spanish word aleman, translates to “German Doctor.”