SIXTY MINUTES (60 Minuten) is a really impressive new addition to the Netflix library of international action, this one hailing from Germany. It feels very modern in the execution of its hard-hitting martial arts action, but it’s classical in its simplicity. A straight forward set up, an easy to understand goal, an emotional underpinning.
Here’s how it works. Octavio Bergmann (Emilio Sakraya, Warrior Nun), nickname Octa, is an MMA fighter successful enough to have his own gym in Berlin. He has a fight scheduled for today but it keeps getting delayed, and his team are trying to keep him warmed up, but he’s preoccupied because it’s his daughter Leonie (Morik Heydo)’s seventh birthday and he wants to make sure not to miss her party.
It must be said that this man is a bit of a fuck up. No one seems to think he’s been there enough for his daughter, who he had when he was 19 and didn’t stay with the mother, Mina (Livia Matthes, “Model,” CHARLIE’S ANGELS). On phone calls both his daughter and his ex don’t seem to believe he’ll really show up. And it’s implied that it was out of his control, but somehow he agreed to a fight on her birthday. The English title could’ve been DEADBEATDOWN.
But it’s also clear that he really does want to come through this time. His business partner Paul (Dennis Mojen) tells him how much he needs this fight and his trainer Cosima (Marie Mouroum, a Dora Milaje in BLACK PANTHER and regular stunt double for Queen Latifah) tries to get him into combat mentality, but his mind is on calling Leonie, figuring out what to write in her card, arranging to pick up her cake and gift, and not being too injured in the fight to make it to the party. When he gets to the arena and he’s making his entrance and then Mina calls on his Bluetooth earpiece and says she’s filing for sole custody if he’s not there in an hour, he doesn’t hesitate. He turns right around, forgets about the fight and starts running.
We meet various characters who taunt him as he leaves, or try to stop him. It’s clear that something is up. Part of it has to do with people who made big bets on the fight, so they chase after him and try to physically return him to the arena before he’s disqualified. The first time he’s surrounded, his opponents are told not to injure him, because they need him to be able to do the fight. But I have a feeling he could’ve taken them out anyway. This guy is tough.
The mayhem escalates. There are car crashes. He tries to get help from police and instead offends them and gets arrested. He gets abducted and interrogated by a crime boss and almost set on fire. He escapes and makes it onto a subway while still zip-tied to a chair. Which causes a bit of a scene.
Two thirds of it are pretty much in real time, and he set a stop watch for an hour, which occasionally appears on screen, as does a map of his route. He takes phone calls while running, shown in split screen. It did remind me a little of RUN LOLA RUN, but maybe it’s the techno soundtrack (by Michael Kadelbach), or that he kinda looks like the boyfriend in that. I don’t remember if Lola had to get help from friends to pick up a cake and a cat from a shelter for a birthday present.
I like the tone of it. Serious, but not heavy or gloomy. Lots of colorful bad guys in all shapes, sizes and varieties. There aren’t really jokes, but there are little character moments, like the way Octa stops to chug any water he ever comes across. The man knows how to hydrate.
One of my favorite things about the movie is Cosima, and the way she and the rest of Octa’s gym staff are set up. Right at the beginning he’s doing a warm up where they’re all coming at him, he’s tossing them around, bantering a little. It’s exaggerated so they seem to being going extremely hard, he’s kicking gloves out of hands and really tossing people and they all seem really impressive. So then during the chase he finds himself back at the gym and calls out to them. They have no clue what the situation is but they immediately line up behind him like the X-Men and are ready to fight for him. Badass and touching at the same time. Shout out to Bruno (Bruce Willow, THE HITMAN’S BODYGUARD) and Annika (Eniko Fulop, the lady with all the pink in BLADE OF THE 47 RONIN). We could all use homies like them.
It’s a solid piece of filmmaking. Even the stage-setting is propulsive. It starts without production logos, and the first few images declare what will be the main components of the movie: the city of Berlin, then Octa’s muscles and tattoos, then his hands scribbling his daughter’s name on a card, unsure what to write next. Then he walks out onto the floor for the warmup. It’s not a oner kind of movie, but there are some long tracking shots and fluid handheld moves rotating around the fighters that are very effective.
It leaves some time to breathe, but a high percentage of screentime is dedicated to either hauling ass or beating it. Because it’s a chase through the city, we get to see fights in a variety of settings – streets and alleys, the gym, the subway station, a dance club, inside a van. The choreography is obviously very MMA inspired, lots of throws and chokes and arm and leg locks, but also thunderous punches and more fanciful moves like flying scissor locks. The camerawork is energetic but clear, in the mix but not too close.
This is the first second unit director credit for Thomas Hacikoglu, a stunt performer on THE THREE MUSKETEERS, CLOUD ATLAS, THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB, WITHOUT REMORSE, JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 4 and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING f/k/a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – DEAD RECKONING PART ONE, so I’m betting he played a part in how great the action is.
Everyone here is doing strong work, but it might not amount to as much without Sakraya nailing the acting performance as well as he does the action. He’s kind of like a Tom Hardy character – a vulnerable soul encased in a macho posture, grimacing and limping angrily through the world. I really bought him as a guy sorely frustrated with the failures in his personal life and fighting to do better. Other than his propensity for knocking random people out of the way during footchases I found him easy to root for. He’s well meaning with a bit of a scary edge to him, witnessed before the fight when he starts punching the dashboard of Paul’s car, and fully unleashed after one of his pursuers smashes Leonie’s cake. The world goes quiet and slow for a few seconds before Octa erupts on the guy. It really is unfair to that nice little bakery. When he’s done wiping his bloody knuckles with napkins he turns to the counter for a second like he wants to apologize, then realizes he should run.
Director Oliver Kienle has a couple other movies to his name. They don’t seem to be action-related, but STRONGER THAN BLOOD is a crime drama that might have some potential, FOUR HANDS seems to be a revenge thriller, and ISI & OSSI is a romcom with Dennis Mojen (Paul in this movie) playing a boxer. If anyone can recommend any of those, let me know.
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a German action movie before. I know there’s a low budget martial arts one called PLAN B but I don’t know how to get it. I would definitely be excited to see more from Kienle, Sakraya and/or Mouroum. Give me SIXTY MORE MINUTES, give me 60 MINUTES PRESENTS COSIMA, or give me something new. I’ll be waiting.