Tough crimes in the village idyll – sounds like the Coen brothers, but it is the latest prank from Detlev Buck, who, after all of his successful works in recent years, is only partially convincing this time. For what reason Christmas Crossfire disappointed, we reveal that in our review.
OT: Christmas Crossfire (Wir können nicht anders, DE 2020)
The plot summary
After a great night of love, Edda (Alli Neumann) persuades her acquaintance Sam (Kostja Ullmann) to go on a St. Nicholas trip to her homeland, which she has not set foot in for five years. The journey takes them to the unknown, almost empty province left behind, where no one wants to hang dead over the fence. The couple is separated and caught in a battle between men who have nothing left to lose and men who cannot lose because they love. They find each other again and try to survive together in a completely overwhelmed world. 24 hours later six men are hanging over the fence…
No, Detlev Buck’s crime comedy “Christmas Crossfire”, which moved from the cinema to Netflix due to the corona pandemic, has nothing to do with his brothers’ comedy “We can do it differently…”, which was released in 1993, even though the film titles are quite similar. Nevertheless, Buck’s typical directing style can still be recognized 18 years later. To this day, the Bad Segeberger native is an exceptionally good observer of a wide variety of clientele and milieus as well as the moods that accompany them. While his children’s films such as “Hands off Mississippi” or the “Bibi & Tina” films always have their finger on the pulse of their intended (young) target group, Buck, on the other hand, manages to attract his audience to, among other things, the Berlin underworld (” “Asphalt Gorillas”), European discovery (“Measuring the World”) or the deepest province (“Karniggels”). Buck is now returning to the latter with his new film and also plays a small role as the mayor himself. Furthermore, he once again makes use of his well-known strengths – the village society portrayed here seems thoroughly authentic, which is due on the one hand to the strong acting of all the actors, but on the other hand also to how exactly Buck stages it and in what way Scenarios by the filmmaker, who is also responsible for the script, brings this down. Nevertheless, the end result tastes bland, because as a pure display of provincial whimsy, “Christmas Crossfire” is unfortunately only partially funny.
Edda (Alli Neumann) and Sam (Kostja Ullmann) like each other.
In “Christmas Crossfire,” Detlev Buck doesn’t spend long on an (unnecessary anyway) introduction. It is enough that the two main characters, Edda and Sam, somehow get to know each other somewhere so that they can plunge into the adventure planned for them as quickly as possible (and against their will). At first glance, the fact that this comes at the expense of identification potential seems rather irrelevant. Ultimately, “We can’t do anything else” is not a profound character study, but rather a crime grotesque in which How is much more exciting than that Why. Nevertheless, you can’t avoid admitting that not only Detlev Buck himself, but also obvious role models such as the Coen brothers, generally succeed in combining exciting characters and absurd plot developments – and that’s pretty much how it feels from the start no matter how the events in “Christmas Crossfire” will develop. The chemistry between the musician and acting newcomer Alli Neumann is right (“Awake”) and her colleague Kostja Ullmann (“My blind date with life”)but since the script (Detlev Buck and “Dark” author Martin Behnke) quickly separates the two and both have to go their separate ways for a long time without each other, this chemistry hardly comes into its own.
“Nevertheless, one cannot avoid admitting that not only Detlev Buck himself, but also obvious role models such as the Coen brothers, generally succeed in combining exciting characters and absurd plots.”
In general, when it comes to character interaction, the focus is far too often on mere nagging. Particularly in the first half of “Christmas Crossfire” the dialogue rarely takes place at room volume. Instead, the characters constantly scream at each other. In the second half of the film it becomes noticeably quieter, but the bullying remains omnipresent. There are hardly any completely normal dialogues here, in which the characters discuss the situation or their own sensitivities, for example. Instead, every interaction turns into a verbal scuffle, which Buck and Behnke enrich with various cynical remarks and certainly one or two cult-worthy sayings. But over a film length of 105 minutes, the lack of variety between the actors and actresses becomes tiring, meaning that even the actual plot falls behind at some point. This is anything but complex. It’s enough to know that there are good guys on one side and bad guys on the other, and that both sides – who would have thought it – don’t agree.
Detlev Buck can be seen in a small supporting role.
The strengths of Detlev Buck that we conjured up at the beginning can be found in “Christmas Crossfire” mainly in the peripheral areas. A large banquet in the presence of the village mayor, for example, is symptomatic of Buck’s understanding of social peculiarities within the village cosmos portrayed here. And in a particularly strong scene, Buck allows the comedy of an unpleasant encounter to quickly turn into a menace that seems out of place in the context of the rest of the film, but that is precisely why it has a remarkable impact. It’s just a shame that the film doesn’t make much of its characteristic setting. For a long time, “We can’t do anything else” follows the structure of a road movie. Only in a few individual scenes do you get enough of the provincial community to enrich the moment. This means that the story could take place in any other location for most of the time without having too much of an impact on the atmosphere.
“In a particularly strong scene, Buck quickly turns the comedy of an unpleasant encounter into a menace that seems out of place in the context of the rest of the film, but that is precisely why it has a remarkable impact.”
Last but not least, we have to take a look at the actors. Here too, Detlev Buck stays true to his line and shoots with equal parts of well-known but not overhyped newcomers and largely unknown (but all the more hopeful) newcomers. Especially Merlin Rose (“Doctor Games”) pleases as an appropriately hysterical almost-murder victim and skillfully embodies this hysteria without becoming exhausting. Sophia Thomalla (“Man has to go through it”) surprises as an emotionally sublime femme fatale with a surprisingly warm-hearted performance and Peter Kurth (“In the Hallways”) will not be forgotten so quickly after his short appearance. In complete contrast to the film itself, which is unfortunately one of the weakest entries of the almost past Netflix year.
Conclusion: As a dryly humorous provincial thriller, “Christmas Crossfire” falls far short of its potential. Both in view of the genre and Buck’s previous work, who has already staged similar material much more effectively.
“Christmas Crossfire” is now available to stream on Netflix.