Monday, 6 September 2010


Fresh from the Vietnam War, German-American soldier Ricky returns to his hometown Münich to work for some detectives as a contract killer on a case they have been struggling with. Working methodically through the hits, Ricky uses his spare time to meet up with family and friends, one of whom accompanies him on a tour of his old neighbourhood and reminds him of the local women. After reconnecting with a few of them, he asks for a prostitute to be sent to his hotel room, a woman who turns out to be one of the detective’s girlfriends. The two fall for each other, much to the dismay of the police who suddenly turn on Ricky.

The American Soldier is one of those Fassbinder films that spends a lot of its screentime both revering and parodying cinema, and here the target is film noirs and the gangster genre. Remarkably, even with such a thin premise, it succeeds in holding one’s attention. Even in its most high-octane moments, the film carries on in a plodding pace, a choice that deliberately steals the plot of its frivolity and adds a touch of realism. The gorgeous photography, comprising glowing whites against pitch black, keeps Münich in perpetual nighttime. The character of Ricky could easily have come from one of Fassbinder’s first three features, but gone is the impish sarcasm and dispassion that made films like Gods of the Plague so enjoyable. It’s by no means a bad film, but it does leave one wanting.

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