With his new film “Blood & Gold” director Peter Thorwath walks the same path as features like Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” and even “Sisu” from earlier this year. He’s made a gritty, gory, no-holds-bar war movie that fully embraces its genre influences. Yet Thorwath (who also directed 2021’s “Blood Red Sky”) also shows he has a knack for characters. And there are many that help spin this twisted, violent, and at times darkly funny war-torn tale.
Greed is one of most lethal killers in “Blood & Gold” which is set in Germany during the waning days of World War II. Following some brief opening script that would have made Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone proud, we get a tone-setting first scene. In it we see a Germany SS unit led by the ruthless and disfigured Lieutenant Colonel Von Starnfeld (Alexander Scheer) chasing after a deserter named Heinrich (Robert Maaser). They eventually catch him and hang him from a nearby tree.
But as soon as the Nazi’s are out of sight a young woman named Elsa (a really good Marie Hacke) appears and frees the seriously injured Heinrich. She takes him to her small country farm where she and her Down syndrome brother Paule (Simon Rupp) nurse the soldier back to health.
We learn Elsa has no love for the Nazis who killed her father and who would happily kill her brother simply because of his condition. A disillusioned Heinrich is fed up with the war. His pregnant wife and son were killed in a bombing raid, but his young daughter Lottchen survived and was taken in by some neighbors. Getting home to her is all he cares about.
Meanwhile Von Starnfeld and his unit roll into the village of Sonnenberg where they believe a stash of gold bars has been hidden in the rubble of a house once belonging to a Jewish resident named Johannes Löwenstein. The town’s sniveling mayor and Nazi panderer (Stephan Grossmann) welcomes the soldiers into his village. But he quickly learns his uninvited guests aren’t concerned with his hospitality.
Von Starnfeld claims the local inn as his headquarters and forces the townspeople to start sifting through what remains of the Löwenstein house. He then orders his brutal second-in-command, Sergeant Dörfler (Florian Schmidtke) to take some soldiers and steal provisions from neighboring farms. That brings them to Elsa’s doorstep where a violent encounter sets the main story in motion.
Screenwriter Stefan Barth tosses several more characters into the mix. Most are townsfolk, many with their owns secrets, loyalties, and interests. They all fit nicely into what turns out to be a crazy web of war-scarred anger and unfettered greed. Barth’s script is sharp, shrewdly witty, and hard to predict. He pulls the rug out from under us more than once while delivering a rousing payoff that is a stealthy mix of comically violent and emotionally satisfying.
We also get some fantastic action scenes that range from intense shootouts to ferociously choreographed fight sequences. Thorwath has a good grasp of shooting and framing action. But what’s most fun is watching the different ways he uses it. Some scenes simply emphasize the sheer ferocity of war. Other scenes are straightforward genre movie joy.
With “Blood & Gold” you have a good story, good characters, and good action rolled up into something genre fans should have a blast with. All three can be thrilling, emotional, or sometimes all-out bonkers which is one of the movie‘a biggest strengths. “Blood & Gold” happily wears its influences on its sleeve yet it has its own distinct energy and flavor. And it comes in a tightly structured fast-moving 100-minute package. Yet another good international grab for Netflix.