The Golden Glove
R1 - America - Strand Releasing
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (4th February 2020).
The Film

In 1970, the body of a prostitute from the St. Pauli district of Hamburg was discovered, but not all of the parts were present. Four years later, middle-aged warehouse worker Fritz Honka (The Silent Revolution's Jonas Dassler) trolls the Golden Glove bar for drink, cigarettes, and companionship, his physical repulsiveness meaning that the prospects are usually the oldest, homeliest, and drunkest women left by closing time. One night, he takes home Gerda (Autumn Blood's Margarete Tiesel) with the promise of more alcohol, having his way with her while she is passed out, and getting violent with her when she is not fast enough to leave the next morning. When he discovers her still in his attic apartment upon returning home, he brutalizes her again and throws her out, only inviting her back in when he discovers that she has thoroughly cleaned up. Although he is clearly interested in meeting her shop girl daughter Rosi – and Gerda is clearly not disturbed about the prospect of pimping out her daughter – Gerda nevertheless agrees to a contract in which she submits her will entirely to him. After Gerda leaves him, having been taken in by a Christian mission, Fritz takes his violence out on another pair of drunks he takes home from the bar. When he is hit by a van in the street and loses his job, he resolves to give up drinking at the Golden Glove and takes a new one as a night watchman in an office building where he strikes up a friendship with a pretty cleaner Helga (Mostly Martha's Katja Studt) only to discover that she is married. He falls back into his old habits and haunts, and his next victim may not be as random an encounter as before.

Based on the true crime story of German serial killer Fritz Honka, The Golden Glove is a peculiar take on the serial killer film by director Fatih Akin (The Edge of Heaven), reveling in meticulously recreating the era, the setting, and the character – under some truly grotesque prosthetic make-up, twenty-three year old year old star Dassler is considerably more photogenic – so that the film's atmosphere is the most palpable aspect of the film while eschewing much in the way of motive or explanation (one is not certain whether this is an "innovation" of Akin's script or of the credited Heinz Strunk source novel). In spite of much of the film's violence taking place offscreen (literally so just outside of the frame in some instances), the film manages to be quite brutally unpleasant and yet plodding at the same time. For the most part it seems content to merely document the ins and outs of Honka's life and, by extension, the dead end existence of the St. Pauli crowd, with nothing to really distinguish Honka from those around him, even the anti-immigrant rants he goes on about his Greek neighbors (for whom he blames the rotting smell that permeates the building). Bewildering is his inclusion of two extraneous characters: flunking high school student Petra (Young Light's Greta Sophie Schmidt) and nerdy Willi (Goodbye Berlin's Tristan G๖bel) who tries to impress her by pretending to be more mature as a regular of The Golden Glove. Dassler chews scenery as Honka to the seeming deliberate intent of Akin – with Honka's prosthetic nose even more exaggerated by wide angle close-ups – while Tiesel ekes sympathy in a role similar to her "pathetic" turn as the lead of Paradise: Love, but one cannot help but wonder what point the director is trying to make over the course of two hours, and some may not come out the other end feeling as it if was time well spent.

Video

Although The Golden Glove has had an English-friendly Blu-ray release in Germany that no doubt enhanced the tactile qualities of the film's atmosphere, the film looks decent on Strand Releasing's progressive, anamorphic DVD which effectively enough delivers the film's dingy look while Honka's prosthetic nose is not always well served by the resolution.

Audio

While the Blu-ray release no doubt more effectively conveyed the film's mix with its home entertainment approximation of the Dolby Atmos mix, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track here gets the job done as far as a standard 5.1 mix, conveying the queasiness of the Golden Glove bar and apartment scenes which are often busier in the surrounds than exterior scenes until the finale. Optional English subtitles are provided in which the main character's name is spelled as "Fiete" for some of the earlier scenes.

Extras

While the German Blu-ray release offered a pair of short featurettes, the Strand release only includes the film's theatrical trailer (2:07) and trailers for four other releases.

Overall

With its atypical approach to the true crime serial killer genre, The Golden Glove may impress some with its execution of atmosphere but others may spend much of the running time wondering if there is even a point.

 


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