Not My Day (Nicht Mein Tag): Film Review

Rat Pack/Sony Pictures
Originality takes a backseat in this otherwise superbly executed action comedy from Germany.

Moritz Bleibtreu stars alongside Axel Stein in this action comedy from director Peter Thorwarth that's based on a novel by Ralf Husmann.

An ostensibly squarer-than-square bank employee is forced to be the getaway driver for a Southern European bank robber in Not My Day (Nicht Mein Tag), a hit German action comedy directed by Peter Thorwarth and based on the book by Ralf Husmann.

Starring Deutschland’s go-to guy for vaguely ethnic characters, local star Moritz Bleibtreu (World War ZThe Baader-Meinhof Complex), as the loud-mouthed criminal, and actor Axel Stein as his uptight kidnapee-turned-transporter, this mismatched buddy flick of sorts has nothing new to offer but excels due to its expert craftsmanship in virtually all departments. With almost $7 million in box-office receipts, this local Sony release, co-produced by Deutsche Colombia Pictures, was the biggest local film of 2014 until the release of behemoths Vaterfreuden, with local star and media darling Matthias Schweighoefer, and Stromberg, a film version of Germany’s version of The Office. European TV channels and genre distributors and festivals will be willing takers, but producers looking for remake ideas would also do well to check out this Day.

Till Reiners (Stein) is a meek, bored-out-of-his-brains bank employee in a sleepy German town. His wife, Miriam (Anna Maria Muehe), also the mother of his 3-year-old son, Nico (Emilian Markgraf), is hoping for a breakthrough as a fashion designer, but for the moment Till is the one bringing home the bacon, which he does grudgingly.

In fact, Till’s so bored that he doesn’t even notice that a beer-swigging macho man, Frank Navroki (Bleibtreu), with unkempt long hair, imposing tattoos and a ridiculous mask, robs the bank where he works while he’s on the phone with Miriam, quarreling about nothing. What happened becomes clear to him only when he ends up being the designated getaway driver for Navroki (nickname: Nappo) after the heavy’s own driver (Frederick Lau, in a practically wordless cameo) escapes early.

What follows is a delicious maze of tragicomic events in which the misunderstandings quickly pile up: Miriam, who's still angry with Till, doesn’t notice he’s been kidnapped; her friend Ina (Nele Kiper) has sex in her bed with a stranger whom Till finds when he does make it home; and a criminal duo (Maxwell Richter, Ralf Richter) that has sold a Mustang to Nappo assign the crook a lucrative job in Amsterdam that also requires Till’s talent as a bank employee.

Since originality isn’t very high on the list of priorities, it’s the (negative) chemistry between the protagonists that makes or breaks the film, and thankfully Bleibtreu and Stein are a great match. Even if Bleibtreu could do this role in his sleep, he manages to imbue his colorful chauvinist-pig character with some individuality, while Stein is great in a role that allows him to essentially play two characters -- as Till becomes increasingly unhinged as shots are fired, money piles up and alcohol and drugs make an appearance. Supporting players are also all game, including co-producer and German star Til Schweiger, who puts in an appearance as himself at a strip joint.

Though Not My Day is almost two hours long, Thorwarth and editor Andreas Menn keep everything moving along at a snappy pace, seamlessly integrating Jan Fehse’s crystalline, frequently moving camerawork -- including a smudgy point-of-view sequence in Amsterdam that involves too much of just about every vice imaginable -- and a few noteworthy stunt sequences, including a neat car chase along the canals of the Dutch capital.

Music is appropriately rocky, as Till is a fan of the fictive rock band Donar (named after one of the production companies on this film), though composers Cowboys on Dope, who play Donar in the film, are definitely on autopilot in the otherwise well-executed finale.   

Production companies: Westside Filmproduktion, Donar Film, Deutsche Colombia Pictures Filmproduktion, Mr Brown Entertainment

Cast: Moritz Bleibtreu, Axel Stein, Jasmin Gerat, Anna Maria Muehe, Nele Kiper, Ben Ruedinger, Kasem Hoxka, Bekim Guri, Tobias Nied, Emilian Markgraf, Ralf Richter, Maxwell Richter, Milan Peschel, Frederick Lau

Director: Peter Thorwarth

Screenwriters: Stefan Holtz, Peter Thorwarth, screenplay based on the novel by Ralf Husmann

Producers: Christian Becker, Marcus Machura

Co-producers: Til Schweiger, Tom Zickler

Director of photography: Jan Fehse

Production designer: Uwe Stanik

Music: Cowboys on Dope, Eddy Coupe

Visual effects supervisor: Marco Sohn

Costume designer: Wiebke Wardenbach

Editor: Andreas Menn

No rating, 115 minutes