It’s time to look at what I would have considered as a fairly obscure film but that doesn’t appear to be the case. I can certainly admit that I had never heard of M prior to watching it. It’s one of those films with a really dark premise where the less you see the better. The film’s main purpose is about the aftermath of the event after all. I’d say that the movie handles itself with class, but really drops the ball at the end. Drop might not be the right word, more like the film spiked it when they were nearing the goal. The ending practically writes itself. There are many ways that the film could have gone, but the ending we got was probably the most unsatisfying option of the bunch.
The film starts out with another child going missing. Unfortunately kids have been murdered all across the city and the number continues to grow. The public then receives a letter that the murderer isn’t done yet and intends to continue his streak of carnage. The citizens are growing uneasy with the knowledge that the cops have uncovered no leads and are starting to take the matter into their own hands. They’ll find the murderer even if they have to assault a lot of normal joes in the process. The cops also ramp up their efforts as a lot of heat is being directed at them. This leads the underworld to do their own investigating since the cops are going to be a nuisance until this is all cleared up. With everyone on the lookout for this elusive murderer can he possibly evade them all?
The film changes viewpoints quite often as we see what all 3 parties are thinking and how they plan on handling this. The cops certainly mean well, but naturally they are limited in what they can do during this case. They could use undercover cops but there are only so many of those. The cops in uniform won’t find anything since people can spot them a mile away. The criminal also has the advantage of being able to wait them out and attack when he feels like it. As such the stress on him is far less than that of the cops. I think the film did a good job of giving the cops credit as they do try their best. The situation simply was not in their favor, but it’s hard to say what they could be doing better.
Meanwhile the Underworld starts obtaining clues and such with almost comic ease compared to the cops. As soon as they decide to catch this guy we enter the climax of the film. Some parts can still be a bit of a stretch though like with how the murderer is somehow able to evade all of the guys they had after him. Even cornering him in the building takes forever. Still, they ultimately did get their man and then they bring him over to a court room of their own creation to be judged by fellow criminals. This is the only part of the film that starts to drag a bit. We have the villains grill him a bit and explain to the villain that he’s basically doomed. Even his defense counsel thinks he is doomed.
Now we get into the spoilers territory so this is your chance to back off now while you still can. Are you ready? Well, then the film goes sideways when the villain makes a long speech about how he’s insane and can’t fight his murderous urges. He wants them to take pity on him. The villains do not except for his defense counsel who suddenly takes his role seriously and starts yelling at everybody. We get a long back and forth at this point where he tries to seriously make the case that since the villain is insane he should be taken to an institution instead of paying for his crimes. The leader of the gang had just gone through this “plea” with how rigged it is and how the villain would simply be back on the streets again. Isn’t it convenient that this villain would make the same case after that?
Then the court is interrupted by the cops showing up and arresting everyone. The villain is put before another trial and then the film ends. You are left to wonder if the gang is right and the villain will get off on a plea of insanity or if he will have to pay his dues. I’m inclined to believe that it would be the latter but I think this wasn’t the right time for such an open ended final scene. It also makes a lot of the other scenes feel pretty much pointless. It’s why you have a sense of unease during the villain court scenes as you just get the feeling that something is going to happen to interrupt it. Call it a hunch, but the characters were not going to destroy the villains. That’s fine enough, but I’d like some assurance that he will at least go to jail.
Also, while realistic it can be annoying to see all of the gangsters suddenly arrested while the cops prepare to take all the credit. They didn’t do much here while the gangsters did all of the work. The gang members were crooks through and through so they can’t blame anyone but themselves but it’s ironic that the only time they are caught is when they try to help the cops restore order to the city. Their motives may not have been pure, but they got the job done. Again, after everything that happened throughout the film and how hard it was to catch the villain this just wasn’t a very satisfying ending.
Overall, M is definitely an interesting film. I believe it’s the only German dubbed film that I have seen so far. As I mentioned this film is pretty dark so don’t expect too many laughs out of it. Still, the film does try to inject some humor in from time to time to keep the film from being too broody. How well it works will depend on how into the plot you are. I’d say that the writing is sound and the film certainly could have been a lot worse given the premise. It’s not one that I’d recommend a film try to adapt but considering that it did I think this movie did a pretty reasonable job. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone but if you want to see a scenario where villains and heroes alike go after one guy this is definitely the film for you.