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Review: Fatih Akin’s serial-killer saga ‘The Golden Glove’ pushes the limits of repulsion

Jonas Dassler, ‘The Golden Glove’
Jonas Dassler in the movie “The Golden Glove.”
(Gordon Timpen / Strand Releasing)

Repugnant by design, period serial-killer saga “The Golden Glove,” adapted from Heinz Strunk’s 2016 eponymous novel and set in grimy 1970s Germany, shocks as a bizarre entry in celebrated auteur Fatih Akin’s already eclectic oeuvre, which previously carved out the more accessible, Golden Globe-winning “In the Fade.”

Drowned in copious quantities of alcohol, Fritz Honka (thespian Jonas Dassler, deformed through makeup and prosthetics into a grotesque figure) frequents the establishment in Hamburg’s red light district that gives the horrifying account its title, a place where men meet barely conscious older prostitutes. Meanwhile, at his home in an attic with pornographic images for wallpaper, the dismembered bodies of multiple women rot. Dassler’s personification of the real-life infamous and misogynistic character — his walk, his speech patterns — consistently startles.

Putrid imagery drenched in blood and perspiration paint a statement of moral corrosion in a society still haunted by postwar ghosts. Akin ramps up the bleakness as if deliberately wanting to push audiences to the fringes of their tolerance for brutality. It’s a grand symphony of depravity featuring murder-induced vomit and the sounds of flesh being ripped apart.

Although psychological substance runs slim, Akin renders most mainstream depictions of degenerate minds lighthearted. For the filmmaker, the jump between Golden Globe and “Golden Glove” won’t be fatal even among those who’ll find this odd echelon reprehensible. His acute narrative prowess still manifests in how he tricks us into believing what we are seeing is worse than what’s actually on screen.

‘The Golden Glove’
In German with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Playing: Starts Friday, Alamo Drafthouse, Los Angeles
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