Rising High might sound like a boring title but at it’s a lot better than the German original, Betonrausch, which literally translates as “concrete crazy”. If that’s not enough to put you off, hearing the film described as “The Wolf Of Wall Street for estate agents” might be. Cüneyt Kaya’s white-collar crime caper may sound awful on paper, but it actually stands up pretty well as a slick heist movie with a raft of great lead performances, a punchy script and a lot of party montages.
Cue slow-motion shots of strippers jumping into swimming pools, guys doing coke off of mirrored tables and duffle bags of banknotes being tipped upside down for no reason. For the first 10 minutes it looks like Rising High is going to try and be as Scorsese as possible – with shamed hero Viktor (David Kross, mostly known over here for The Reader and War Horse) narrating the story of his downfall from prison. Kaya quickly settles into his own groove but the shadow of much better films stills looms large over the whole script, and 90 minutes is far too long to try and keep up a pace it can’t quite match.
Still, the first half is cracking. Viktor arrives in Berlin with nothing but 200 euros and a nice suit, quickly realising that it’s almost impossible to get a job (or even a place on a park bench for the night) in post-recession Germany. Almost instantly turning to crime, he forges a pay cheque on a corner shop photocopier and scams his way into a penthouse apartment – sub-letting it to a load of Bulgarian builders to cover his costs.
During the inevitable police raid that follows, Viktor bumps into his new partner, Jerry (Frederick Lau, The Wave) and the pair start thinking much bigger. Dreaming up a slightly confusing plot that exploits a loophole in the German real estate process, Viktor and Jerry assemble a team of scammers including a corrupt mortgage broker, a guy who fiddles property auctions and someone who sources gullible buyers – Kaya keeping things moving like a weird office-based Mission: Impossible.
All they want, of course, is money. Money to buy more strippers, swimming pools, and coke, and money to fuel the kinds of parties that play out (in slow-mo) to Billie Eilish or (in fast-mo) to electro-Krautrock. Where the film falls flattest is when it thinks it needs to give Viktor a psychological reason for his greed – adding in a backstory about growing up poor, seeing his dad lose his house to the tax man, and watching his mum leave the family for someone richer.
For such a carefully constructed film it’s a shame to see it skimming so much surface whenever it has to deal with human emotions instead of legal loopholes, and things grow worse in the second half when Viktor starts getting romantically entangled with banker Nicole (Janina Uhse), steering the film further away from what it’s good at.
Kross, Lau and Uhse all do a great job with what they have – Kross in particular standing out with a range that spans wide-eyed kid to slick city boy, through wannabe chancer and everything in-between – but the script isn’t quite strong enough to keep up the pace.
Just like the real con, it’s a fun ride for a while, but pretty soon the strippers look tired, the coke’s used up and everyone remembers that they’re standing in a roomful of estate agents.
- Director: Cüneyt Kaya
- Starring: David Kross, Frederick Lau, Janina Uhse
- Release date: April 17 (Netflix)