A review of how Peter Thorwarth’s ‘Blood & Gold’ (2023) helps to put German ultimate action on the map.

German films about the darkest part of the country’s history typically broach the subject with the appropriate seriousness. But it seems the time had come in 2023 for a film like Blood & Gold with its slightly more lighthearted take on the Third Reich. 

A film that wants to entertain primarily against this particular historical backdrop is a risky business in Germany, but Peter Thorwarth, who established himself as an expert for quirky and genre-bending films, took on the challenge. On top that, German action fans who want to enjoy a film made in their home country are not blessed with large selection, so let’s check out if Blood & Gold can be added to the list!

During the last months of World War 2, Wehrmacht soldier Heinrich (Robert Maaser) escapes from execution by an SS squad. He is rescued by Elsa (Maria Hacke), who hides him in her barn. His tormentors turn up in the nearby village to search for a rumored gold treasure in the abandoned house of a Jewish family. Heinrich and Elsa become a two-person death squad, and descend upon the village for revenge and justice. 

We’ve got some Nazi pigs to hunt down!

Thorwarth stages his film like a Western. A remote village is terrorized by outlaws on a treasure hunt. A brave woman defends her farmstead, and main street is where the action happens. There’s no subtlety in the soundtrack either that is heavily inspired by classic Spaghetti Western tunes. And it all works perfectly! The story is simple, but well written, and has a few surprises here and there. The mood is often gritty, but there are plenty of funny moments to lighten things up. 

The characters are one-dimensional, and most of them are just there to move the plot forward. That’s not a problem, though, this film is not a character study, but a high-octane war adventure. Maaser and Hacke are a great in their roles as vengeful soldier and tough farmer, and radiate lots of energy. Their performance is perfectly complemented by Alexander Scheer as delightfully deranged SS officer, who is also good for a few grotesque moments.

Some attention is given to the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime, and the senselessness of continuing to fight a war that is lost. Because of this, a few scenes may appear a bit uneven tonally, but I think it’s appropriate to get a reminder how dark these times were, and it makes us all the more invested in the fate of the characters.

If you don’t fell well, I can tell you a Hitler joke

Thorwarth and his crew show much respect for old-school action in their approach to staging the action sequences. The execution was put into the capable hands of Vi-Dan Tran who was a member of Jackie Chan’s stunt team and worked as action choreographer for the TV action masterpiece Into the Badlands. He delivers A-Tier fight scenes that are visceral and rely almost exclusively on practical effects. 

There’s plenty of well-choreographed fistfights and shootouts that hit hard and are garnished with over-the-top violence. The creative and brutal kills are a fun throwback to the European Nazi exploitation classics of the 1970s. Lead actor Robert Maasen, who is also a trained stuntman, does all his fights without a double, which makes those scenes incredibly immersive. I really hope to see him more often in action flicks in the future.

Blood & Gold is a highly entertaining film that transitions smoothly between thrills, humor and action. Director Thorwarth delivered an ultimate entry to the genre, and showed that action made in Germany is a thing!