A handsome German legal drama, The Collini Case is adapted from the bestselling book by Ferdinand von Schirach that details a shocking moment in German legal history. Fresh-faced lawyer Caspar Leinen (a solid Elyas M’Barek) is court appointed to defend Franco Nero’s Fabrizio Collini after he confesses to killing a wealthy German businessman, Hans Meyer (Manfred Zapatka). Nero is more or less mute, refusing to defend himself, and the case is further complicated when it is revealed that Leinen was taken under the wing of the murdered Meyer as a child. This gave him a helping hand on his path into law, Leinen even falling for Meyer’s daughter (Alexandra Maria Lara) and befriending his son before a family tragedy upsets everything.
Ugly truths are slowly exposed, with split timelines taking us back to World War II-era Italy, Leinen’s teen years in the 1980s and the time of the criminal case in 2001. It’s a little stiff as a drama, with threads picked up and then dropped; Leinen’s past is an engine for a moment, then sidelined in favour of courtroom tension. Heiner Lauterbach gives good dodgy lawyer as Leinen’s wily legal opponent Mattinger, squirming as the details of the case become apparent.
It’s all a little dry and familiar, despite the terrible truths of the revelations about the German legal system, which protected Nazi war criminals. The emotive climax does engage, but the buildup to all of this is rather methodical and occasionally clunky. The script machinations regarding Leinen’s relationship with the murdered businessman’s family feels rather convoluted and unbelievable – his half-Turkish roots glazed over, an underdeveloped nod to elements of the source novel. Classy but rather cold, The Collini Case is a slow courtroom thriller that fails to ignite.
Dir: Marco Kreuzpainter (15, 123 mins)
Released in cinemas on Fri 27 Aug
words KEIRON SELF
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