Mannheim is hardly the most exciting city in Germany, but Georgian director Dito Tsintsadze's Mannheim in his film Lost Killers (2000) is peopled by a heady cosmopolitan mix of gangsters and other inhabitants of the underworld. Branko (Mišel Matičević) from Croatia and Merab (Lasha Bakradze) from Georgia, are the "lost killers" of the title, but they show themselves to be utterly incapable of fulfilling a contract to kill someone.
Branko's mother is bedridden, so he has to go home regularly to care for her. His worry-fraught life leaves little time for meticulous housekeeping, and his flat is so seedy that Merab is overcome by the smell when he enters. Merab suffers from panic attacks every time they get close to their target and ends up disappearing into various toilets along the way to be sick or sit on the loo. This delay often gives the unsuspecting victim time to flee.
Eventually Branko and Merab call on Carlos (Elie James Blezes), a gentle giant from Haiti, to help them. Carlos' tiny Vietnamese girlfriend, Lan (Nicole Seelig), a prostitute with rotting teeth and bad breath, provides a cringe-provoking subplot with her unorthodox attempts to entice clients.
Although Lost Killers is a gangster movie pastiche, it is peopled by credible and largely likeable characters. The hilarious script is punctuated by superbly captured moments of pathos, and the entire film is catapulted into a higher realm of enjoyment by mesmerising camerawork that pulls you right into the action. We even catch a glimpse of Tsintsadze playing a panto-style cameo as the bedridden mother.
In discussing Lost Killers, another German director recently said that what annoyed him about the film was that there seemed to be no reason for shooting it in Mannheim. The city was used out of context and there were no recognisable landmarks. Personally, I think that this is precisely the point.