International Cinema: The Golden Glove (2019) - Reviewed

German director Fatih Akin has been quite prolific in the film industry since his 1998 crime drama Short Sharp Shock before copping the Golden Bear award with his 2004 film Head-On.  Though a busy filmmaker, it wasn’t really until his 2019 dramatization of the crimes of German serial killer Fritz Honka adapted from Heinz Strunk’s novel The Golden Glove that the director began receiving international (mostly negative) attention.  The true story of a man whose victims all stemmed from meeting at the red-light district of Hamburg pub The Golden Glove, Strunk’s film may be one of the ugliest, filthiest, dirtiest looking, sounding, feeling and smelling serial-killer films ever produced.

Starring a chameleonic Jonas Dassler in the role of the hunchbacked physically deformed alcoholic Fritz Honka, the film chronicles his series of brutal murders of four women whose body parts he hid within the walls and floors of his apartment.  What stands out from this viciously violent serial killer shocker aren’t so much the murders themselves but where they take place.  The interior of this man’s apartment is so disgusting just looking at one of the rooms in it is enough to make you nauseated.  Much like other serial killer films before it such as Angst or Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, the film watches the murders without passing judgment on them and runs the risk of making you the viewer complicit in the crimes.
While mostly negative criticism was heaped upon Fatih Akin, a renowned visual director, for delivering such an uncompromisingly wretched film, special praise must be given to Jonas Dassler who endures heavy makeup as well as contorting his body to lurch about a certain way.  Think of him as an oversized Frankenstein monster with thick rimmed glasses, crooked stained teeth and a poorly healed broken nose.  So strong is his performance you’re taken in from start to finish even as the events of the film grow increasingly foul.  This is the kind of performance of a character so putrid and gross smelling you wouldn’t want to be in the same room as him despite the film’s request that you spend two hours of your life with him.

A difficult film most critics and fans of the director have outright dismissed for the notoriety being whipped up onscreen, The Golden Glove is difficult to recommend even as a longtime consumer of serial-killer films including some truly really great ones.  Angst and Henry remain first rate examples of the genre which still manage to shock as well as exhilarate.  Here, we only get the vile stench emanating off of Fritz Honka though each woman he murders is given equal time to flesh out their own respective backstories.  All in all this isn’t easy or friendly viewing but the question becomes ‘what does this add to the table?’.  In answer to that is not a whole lot but it’s a well-made and extremely well-acted serial killer film that will deliver the brutal shocks aficionados of the genre as well as true crime stories so crave.  View at your own risk.

--Andrew Kotwicki