The latest Netflix Original Film out of Germany, Blood & Gold, is now streaming, but should you give it a watch?
Much to my delight, the Western film genre has persisted into the 21st century. From the works of some of the finest American auteurs (Tarantino’s Django Unchained & Hateful Eight, Coen Brothers’ No Country For Old Men) to the vast collection of the Taylor Sheridan universe (Hell or High Water, Wind River), the themes & pacing of Western filmmaking still seem to resonate with audiences well past its prime of the mid 20th century.
For their part, Netflix seems to delight in this notion as well. The streamer has produced several Western-style films over the last few years to much critical praise, including Oscar nominees The Power of the Dog & The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, plus star-studded features such as The Harder They Fall & Concrete Cowboy.
With their latest entry into the genre Blood & Gold, Netflix moves the setting from the American Old West to Germany in the final throes of World War II.
During the Spring of 1945, the story centers around German deserter Heinrich (Robert Maaser), a young and courageous farmer Elsa (Marie Hacke) – and a whole host of Nazis. On his way home from the front to his daughter, Heinrich stumbles into the clutches of a marauding SS troop. Their leader (Alexander Scheer) leaves him hanging in a tree for his desertion only to be discovered & saved at the last minute by Elsa, who hides him on her farm. Meanwhile, the SS is searching for a Jewish treasure hidden in a nearby village, meeting bitter resistance from the fed-up villagers who want to keep the treasure for themselves. Soon, Heinrich and Elsa are unwillingly dragged into an action-packed hunt for the gold, culminating in a bloody showdown at the village church.
Directed by Peter Thorwarth (Netflix’s Blood Red Sky), Blood & Gold continues the success of Netflix modern Western takes while clearly wearing its influences from the more pulpy versions of the 21st-century films in the genre.
The film maintains the quintessential elements of the classic Western style – White Hat / Black Hat dynamics, small town standoffs, buried gold, methodical pacing, signature scores – and presents them with a modern ultra-violent flair typically reserved for Tarantino and his growing list of disciples. If you love killing Nazis in the bold & pulpy action style of Inglorious Basterds & Overlord, then this is your type of film. Spoiler Alert – it is mine as well.
Much like Westerns of the past, the key differentiator for this film over its contemporaries is its strong performances that back well-defined & entertaining characters.
While the film hinges on the story arc of Heinrich (executed in a remarkably steady way by Robert Maaser), its rich blend of supporting characters make the film a deeper & more satisfying watch. Marie Hacke’s Elsa, Jordis Triebel’s Sonja, & Alexander Scheer’s Lt. Colonel von Starnfeld elevate the less demanding revenge plot and engage us with the charm & fortitude it’s audience deserves without leaning into cartoonish absurdity. Alexander Scheer knows all about that absurdity with his performance as Eight Ball in Blood Red Sky.
Overall, Blood & Gold is an impressive & enjoyable addition to the growing list of variations on the classic Western. Bloody, but not grotesque. Methodical, but never boring. This is my favorite Netflix film of 2023 so far and I hope it has enough mass appeal to cross over to American audiences.
Watch Blood & Gold on Netflix if you like:
- Blood Red Sky
- Inglourious Basterds
MVP of Blood & Gold
MARIE HACKE as ELSA
Even though Heinrich’s revenge & reunification arc may steal the spotlight, it’s the young farmhand & devoted sister Elsa that makes this film work. With a delightful combination of pluck, patience, & pleasantness, Marie Hacke brings Elsa out of the farm and into the fight with relative ease and believability. While we never see what Heinrich has suffered, we have a front row seat to Elsa’s tragic losses. Hacke shows off her range as she bounces between intense drama & impressive action set pieces without a hint of inconsistency.
PLAY, PAUSE, OR STOP?
Don’t mistake its simple, straightforward storytelling as a detriment. Blood & Gold updates the classic spaghetti western with compelling characters, striking action sequences, immersive score, & *cue Brad Pitt’s Lt Aldo Raine* killin’ Nazis!