'Tattoo': Leaving an Impression
By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 4, 2004; Page WE59
Stylish and engaging despite its over-reliance on the conventions of the thriller genre, German writer-director Robert Schwentke's "Tattoo" is as much a story of the relationship between a police rookie (August Diehl) and his seasoned-vet partner (Christian Redl) as it is a mystery about the odd couple's search for a serial killer who has been murdering people for their tattoos. In fact, the drama of the reluctant slacker cop, Schrader, and his gruff, secretly haunted mentor, Minks, is the more interesting half of the story. Not that their hunt for the killer isn't gripping. It will just feel a little familiar, especially to anyone who has seen "Se7en" or "The Silence of the Lambs."
Opening with a bang -- literally -- "Tattoo" picks up just as a naked, bloody woman is hit by a bus as she staggers sobbing down the highway. (True to form, it's part of Visions Bar Noir's "Truly Shocking Showcase." See capsule review of "In My Skin" for another entry.) It's soon revealed that there was a severed human finger in the young woman's stomach, whose print leads Schrader and Minks first in the direction of a creepy guy named Gunzel (Joe Bausch), who blows his own brains out during his arrest, then to a shady lawyer (Johan Leysen), who handles contracts between tattoo collectors and the tattooed who are willing to sell their own body art for a buck. The trail subsequently grows cold and hot, but it is never hotter than when Schrader becomes involved with Maya (Nadeshda Brennicke), a beautiful, elaborately tattooed woman who -- wouldn't you know it -- is about to be used as bait to find the killer.
Well acted, moodily shot and tautly written, this "Tattoo" may feel like you've seen some of it (or its ilk) before. Still, its haunting images get under the skin, leaving an indelible impression.
TATTOO (Unrated, 105 minutes) --Contains gruesome shots of corpses and flayed skin, blood, violence, obscenity, nudity and sex. In German with subtitles. At Visions Bar Noir.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company