Tough Enough (Knallhart) (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner19/09/2007

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 98 mins

Engaging, impressively directed and ultimately disturbing teen drama with a strong central performance from David Kross.

What's it all about?
David Kross stars as 15-year-old Michael Polischka, who's forced to move from posh Zehlendorf to run-down Berlin-Neukolln after his mother, Miriam (Jenny Elvers-Elbertzhagen) splits from her wealthy lover, Doctor Peters (Jan Henrik Stahlberg). Though he quickly makes friends at his new school, Michael also finds himself the target of a gang of vicious bullies, led by the sadistic Erroll (Inanc Oktay Ozdemir).

Paying off the bullies only encourages them, so Michael and his two friends (Arnel Taci and Kai Michael Muller) stage a burglary at Doctor Peters' house. However, when Michael later tries to sell a stolen mobile to local gangster Hamal (Erhan Emre), he finds himself drawn, Goodfellas-style, into the shady world of drug-running.

The Good
David Kross is superb as Michael and his impassive, permanently blank expression is both fascinating and heartbreaking at the same time, as well as making him look a lot like the squeaky-voiced generic teenager on The Simpsons. There's also strong support from Elvers-Elbertzhagen (whose character deserves her own movie) and from Ozdemir, who's thoroughly believable as the bullying Erroll.

The characters are extremely well drawn, from Michael's tearaway best friends to the sympathetic cop who befriends his mother (Hans Low as Gerber) to the disarmingly friendly gangsters who take Michael under their wing. The script is also packed with tiny symbolic details that add texture to the story.

The Great
There are several terrific scenes and director Detlev Buck includes several unexpected moments (such as Michael bewilderedly helping Erroll lift a pram up some stairs) that stay with you. That said, when the film is over, you suddenly start asking yourself whether it's entirely coincidental that both the bullies and the gangsters are immigrants.

Worth seeing?
In short, Tough Enough is a sharply written, superbly acted teen drama that is well worth seeking out, despite its potentially dodgy politics.

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Content updated: 19/10/2017 15:54

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