‘Crooks’ (2024) Review: German Crime Drama Series Is A Hot Mess

Good crime dramas are supposed to be gripping—ones you cannot take your eyes off even for a minute. Several crime dramas are straightforward and do not take much time to set up the premise. Narcos, Bodyguard, Ozark, Mindhunter, Money Heist, Iron Reign, and Peaky Blinders are some of the original Netflix shows that explored various facets of the crime drama genre and presented great stories through them.


Crooks is a new addition to this genre on the streaming platform that talks about the workings of various criminal gangs around certain countries in Europe and how they are interconnected. Created by Marvin Krey, Crooks is a German Netflix original, released on April 4, 2024.

Crooks is eight episodes long, with each having a runtime of forty minutes to one hour. The show is all about a prized historical coin that was stolen from a museum in Berlin by the Al-Walid crime ring of the city. Another gang based in Vienna, Austria, is hired by a Russian mafia kingpin to steal the coin from the Al-Walids and deliver it to them. This job was assigned to a Berlin-based gang that hires a skilled locksmith, Charly Markovic. Charly is joined by some of the men from the Austrian gang to make sure the job is carried out without any bloodshed.


Joseph Muckstein is the Austrian driver sent to Berlin to deliver the money owed to the gang for carrying out the robbery, and he will be escorting Charly to the location. Meanwhile, Charly, an ex-con turned expert locksmith, has been forced to join this heist. The plan to rob the coin is put into motion, and it derails as Karim, a member of the Al-Walid clan, visits the safe that has the coin. All hell breaks loose, with a fight between the robbers and Karim, who is eventually killed in the shootout, and this starts a gang war. The Al-Walids are the most dreaded gangsters in the city, and Charly has been on the run ever since the shootout, as he had the coin on him. Al-Walid leader Hassan assumed it was Charly who killed his brother Karim and began the manhunt. Charly is being hunted by Joseph and his buddies to get their hands on the coin, but the German asks for a huge ransom for the prized coin.  This leads to the cat and mouse between several gangs who are now after Charly. Besides the chase to retrieve the coin, there are intra-familial conflicts within the gang over inheritance money. Joseph is the target of the family he is working for, and he ends up on the run with his newfound buddy Charly upon hearing this news. Were Charly and Joseph caught eventually? Why is Joseph being hunted? Who survived or died in this chase? Who will end up with the coin eventually? These are some of the questions that are answered in this overstretched show.

The most impressive thing about the show has to be the ensemble cast. Each actor, despite a dodgy screenplay, has done a good job with the role assigned to them. This cast of Crooks is huge since the show features criminals from across a few countries in Europe, and having many actors on board made sense. The director has full control over the performances of the vast cast, and this is quite the feat that director Marvin Kren has achieved for himself. It is interesting to see Austria and Germany from the perspective of a filmmaker who is not interested in painting a picture-perfect image of these countries, which are essentially known for their classic scenic beauty. There are hard-hitting crimes taking place in these countries, and corruption is rampant too.


The story and screenplay by Benjamin Hessler, Marvin Kren, and George Lippert must be one of the most convoluted ones this year. We assume the director and the writer developed a lot of material and added conflicts to generate excitement but that did not translate well on the screen. Sadly, the screenplay eventually begins to fall apart and cannot keep the show stable for a long time. The show is steady up until the fourth episode, as the focus is on the coin. It is the second half that is the culprit, and the makers lost the plot quickly. There were already several subplots converging to reach the endpoint; adding a few more did not make sense for the bigger picture. A subplot involving Charly and Joseph in Italy did not make sense as it served no purpose in the main narrative.

The plot took a long time to develop a brotherhood or camaraderie between Joseph and Charly, and it did not turn out well. The second half has plenty of back-and-forth between these two characters and many others who are chasing him. The narrative conveniently flubbed the way the many characters kept traveling to several countries in no time. There isn’t enough time given in the screenplay to get the hang of the characters who were in Berlin today and Vienna tomorrow. Suspension of disbelief became a mist in the second half, unlike the first, which trudges on realism.


Crooks is a very violent show, as the makers do not waste time showcasing bloodbaths and intensity with the many fights and shootouts that take place across the series. The death toll keeps climbing, and thankfully none of them are done just for the shock value. The show addresses the fat-shaming and ridiculing of the underdog character. The show also gets noisy at times, which hampers the viewing experience. The show could have been two episodes shorter, as many subplots were superfluous. Joseph’s cousin Rio’s attempts to kill him one too many times slowed down the pacing of the show, which was fast in the beginning. The makers try to bring on Guy Ritchie and Steven Soderbergh’s style of filmmaking, but sadly, that is overwhelmed by a screenplay that is too long and unnecessarily complex. The focus is on expanding the criminal universe, making them forget the writers needed to build an arc around the leads and other supporting cast. Some obvious plot holes in the show could not be salvaged because of the erratic nature of the narrative. The ending is highly predictable, unlike any other crime drama that could end on either a high or sad note. There is no emotion attached to the climax to make the viewers root for the actors involved in a bad situation. The climax would have been a lot better if the makers had not messed up the pacing and nature of the narrative.

There are some interesting female characters, but they are not written well.  Nina, the Austrian police officer investigating a prostitution ring, is given a revenge arc out of nowhere, while her past is not discussed in enough depth. Alina, Joseph’s girlfriend, walks in and out of the show with nothing much to offer. Samira, Charly’s wife, is the only female character that was given enough material to work on. She goes on to become a partner in crime with Charly, and just like him, she is driven about saving her family. Grisela, aka Madame, is made the protagonist out of nowhere, and there is no context given to interpret her entry into the show. There is no history discussed about her work, which messes up the climax.


The direction was severely hampered, and it lost control over the narrative very quickly, thanks to a haphazard screenplay. The last two episodes are chaotic, as too many things make a mess out of the ending. Cüneyt Kaya and Marvin Kren’s direction are the biggest drawbacks of Crooks.  The editing by Christoph Brunner, Jan Hille, and Christoph Loidl took a back seat because the show is busy connecting gangs across certain European countries, and the story that comes out of this premise is vast.

Fortunately, the performances stand out, and there are plenty of characters in the show who did their jobs well. The ensemble has been assembled and delivered fantastic performances through and through. Frederick Lau, as Charly, is brilliant as a desperate man trying to get him and his family out of the crime ring he has fallen into. Christoph Krutzler as Joseph is excellent as the underdog who is suddenly in the limelight for all the wrong reasons. Svenja Jung is Samira, an independent and steadfast mother who makes sure her son remains safe. Kida Khodr Ramadan as Hassan is an excellent addition to the show, and kudos to the makers for having cast Arabic actors for the role of characters who are immigrants from the Middle East.


Crooks would have been an interesting watch if the makers were not trying to do too many things at a time. It is a classic case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. The show is watchable and might be interesting for those who enjoy a good European crime drama that does not showcase the scenic beauty of the continent. 

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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