Sixty Minutes

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.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 31st, 2024 at 10:35 am and is filed under Reviews, Action, Martial Arts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

12 Responses to “Sixty Minutes”

  1. You already mentioned the cake smashing and the gym fight, but I also liked that Otto’s MMA opponent–while corrupt enough to get in on the pursuit–seems noble enough to want a one-on-one fight and punches out his co-henchman for using a weapon instead of engaging in honorable bareknuckle brawling. Love when the bad guys show some humanity in the middle of being bad guys.

  2. Awww yeeeeah. While I was watching it, I knew it was right up Vern’s alley. If you look at the reviews, most people seem to hate it, either because it’s German (I told you before about how much Germans hate German movies for some reason) or because of its “dumb plot”, but let’s be honest: This is a movie for action fans, by action fans! It is very clear that everybody involved knew how ridiculous and cliched the story of the near unstoppable fighter who pissed off half of the Berlin underworld to be at his daughter’s birthday party is, but that didn’t stop them from taking it seriously. (That said, I would’ve loved to have a cutaway of the kitten sleeping peacefully in the box during the final fight.) One might say that the protagonist might be a bit wooden in the acting department, but honestly, it makes his performance more natural. You really believe that he is a good guy who simply doesn’t know how to use his brain and handle his emotions.

    It is really too bad that we don’t have an actual action movie scene over here. I mean, we have ACTION CONCEPT, the multiple Taurus Stunt Award winning company who did a bunch of really dumb TV shows with great stuntwork. (Like COBRA 11, DER CLOWN or LASKO – DIE FAUST GOTTES or DER PUMA, for which Donnie Yen was even fight choreographer!) But it seems like they never really caught on. Most of them were very shortlived and of course they are usually used as “German TV bad” punchlines.

    PLAN B is actually really cool, at least in the fight department. The humor in it is a bit hit or miss, but it’s hard to believe that it was a German independent production! Which sadly seems to be the reason why it’s even over here hard to find. It never got a physical release, as far as I know, but at least made it to Pay TV and seems to be rentable for streamign on German Amazon right now.

    Sadly I don’t know any other of Oliver Kienle’s works. But his TV show BAD BANKS, which apparently is about behind-the-scenes powerplay in a huge credit institute, received lots of acclaim.

  3. This sounds great. A simple premise, with plenty of opportunity for action, but on a relatable human level. I get so bored of so many of these spy or military thrillers with their endless factions and gray areas. That’s now what action is about. Action is about simple answers to complicated questions. This is what made THE RAID and the original JOHN WICK work. I will definitely check this out.

    I will also cosign on PUMA, a really fun DIE HARD-in-a-mall-but-with-kickboxing thing from the 90s. I bought it at random on Chinese import in a porn store on 34th Street like 15 years ago and so far CJ is the only person I’ve come across who’s ever even heard of it. I don’t know how trackdownable it is at this late date but I think it’s worth seeing.

  4. *That’s NOT what action is about.

  5. BTW, it must be said: I am not a fan of Berlin. Admittedly it’s been something like 20 years since I was there the last time, but the city gave me nothing. However, I always enjoy when a German city gets shown off in an action movie. Especially when they don’t use the clean, gentrified areas, but instead the old, dusty sideroads and backstreets, with buildings that at times predate WWII. There is something unique about the way German towns and cities look and sadly you rarely see them used in action movies. (Still mad at FAST 8 or having a scene taking place in Cologne, but not shooting one single frame there.)

  6. CJ, did you see STEIG. NICHT. AUS? I didn’t, but I’d understood that was made in Berlin. The whole RETRIBUTION phenomenon – can I call it that? It feels like something when one little Spanish movie gets remade 3 times in different languages in 8 years – intrigues me, because I love a good bomb disposal movie. I’ve only seen HARD HIT, the Korean version, which was fine, if a bit bland by Korean standards.

  7. No, sadly I haven’t seen that one, because the title pissed me off. We suddenly had a whole bunch of THIS. IS. A. TITLE. titles and I don’t know why. It’s directed by Christian Alvert though, one of our cooler directors. He was also the guy who was supposed to direct a DJANGO sequel with Franco Nero from a John Sayles script, but I guess that one ended up in development hell when Covid started.

  8. I actually kinda love excessive punctuation in movie titles, but I get that. But how did I never hear about John Sayles writing a DJANGO sequel? I guess they went with the show with Matthias Schoenaerts instead.

  9. It all started when that Nicole Kidman movie BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP was named ICH. DARF. NICHT. SCHLAFEN. over here. They don’t use it that excessive, but obviously once you have at least three movies with such a title, it becomes a biiiiit annoying, even if it’s often just used for DTV releases.

    I seem to remember an interview from a while ago where they said that DJANGO LIVES was pretty much ready to shoot when Covid started and that the TV show wouldn’t impact it, but since then I haven’t heard of it. Even the official Facebook site just says “Coming soon!” in a post from 2021.

  10. I also thought this was fantastic. The simplicity of the story and clear motivation for the main character to keep fighting made me think of The Raid.

  11. Vern’s review is timely as this has been generating quite the buzz among my action freak friends so there’s one of my weekend watches all sorted.

    CJ, I liked Plan B and also need to mention Mike Moeller who’s an amazing fighter his One Million K(l)icks is really entertaining and he also had a bit role in Dacascos’ Ultimate Justice. It’s a pity his highest profile role has been as the unfortunate “Jumbo Shrimp” in the disgraceful EXPEND4BLES.

    Another German movie on Netflix that’s wildly entertaining is BLOOD & GOLD. A WW2 actioner that should be double-billed with SISU for that unique take Europeans always bring to the table.

  12. Really enjoyed this one. I was in Berlin once many years ago — flew in on my own dime to give a lecture on German thrash metal bands of the 80s to maaaaaybe a dozen people? I had enough time to go to the zoo, which was OK, and the Museum of Ancient Musical Instruments, which was amazing.

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