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Nick Tschiller is not a guy you want to mess with. We learn that straight away in Nick’s Law, as he walks into what turns out to be an underage brothel and promptly lays down said rulebook with anything he can get his hands on in the kitchen. Part of the long-running Tatort franchise in Germany (Cenk Batu is another – also on Walter Presents), it’s less a serial drama and more a series of four feature-length mysteries. A bit like Wallander. If Wallander smashed a man’s face in with a toaster.
Nick’s discovery in the opening outing is made all the more shocking by the fact that he also spies his former partner, Max, at the scene. Now transferred from his days in the special service in Frankfurt, he’s not only faced with the challenge of fitting into a new department and the struggle to look after his daughter, Lenny, single-handed, but also the niggling suspicion that his colleague may be corrupt, rather than working undercover.
Til Schweiger is perfectly cast as the no-nonsense detective, diving into the opening set piece with a grim, gruelling determination. His role as Hugo Stiglitz in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds tells you all you need to know about the actor: he can do brutal violence in his sleep. Probably while having brutally violent dreams. Nick shelters a girl from the brothel in his own apartment, but draws a firm line between what’s appropriate and not. He dismisses complaints from his bosses with a gruff confidence. (“We’re meant to arrest and question suspects.” “They didn’t want that.”) Even when he has a promising spark of chemistry with prosecutor Hannah Lennerts (a scene-stealing Edita Malovcic), he shoots down any hope of romance by insisting they talk business over dinner.
So far, so par for the Eurocrime course – and there’s a gripping ruthlessness to the way that Nick goes about his business at one heck of a pace. Director Christian Alvart shoots the action sequences with a handheld urgency and a thrilling pace. It’s clear that we’re heading for a showdown between Nick and Max, just as it’s clear that Nick’s new partner, Yalcin Gumer, (Fahri Yardim) is going to be a reliable sidekick and a solid second lead going forward.
But Nick’s Law has a surprise up its sleeve: it has a wonderful sense of humour. Not just the kind of abrupt one-liners that you’d expect from a hard-nosed detective who uses a toaster a weapon, but a genuine undercurrent of laughter that’s completely disarming. Stiglitz is marvellously versatile, much more than his bruised, macho exterior would suggest – it’s telling that the jokes mainly occur whenever he’s spending time with Lenny. A running gag about how Lenny likes her eggs for breakfast is an utter delight, given a cute, sincere intimacy by Til and Luna Schweiger, while even the finale undermines the tension with a witty, upbeat giggle. It takes no end of skill to deliver that mix of in-your-face action and heartfelt softness without spoiling either, but Nick’s Law follows its delicately balanced code to the letter. This is a box set that deserves to be spaced out and savoured as four separate movies – the kind of show that’s always happy to stop in the middle of a crime scene to have a phone call about takeaway pizza. Hard-edged on the outside and warm on the inside? Maybe that toaster wasn’t so misleading after all.
All 4 episodes of Nick’s Law are available on Walter Presents.
For more information on the other foreign-language shows available, see our Walter Presents TV guide.