Describing a crime drama as delightful isn’t typical, but that’s what Allmen is. It’s also fun and humorous, and easy to binge if you’re so inclined.
I love me some Heino Ferch (Anatomy of Evil, Hotel Adlon), so I’m tickled pink that his series Allmen has arrived in the States. (And I doubt that I’m alone in this sentiment.)
Allmen is a sort of mash-up between the British series The Saint (or, if you prefer, the Dutch series Lord & Master) and the American drama It Takes a Thief — minus the bits about spying for the government and the lead character not knowing his true identity.
Johann Friedrich von Allmen (Ferch) is quite clear about who he is. What he is is a womanizing bon vivant who lives the high life in Switzerland, despite the fact that he’s skint. In debt, to be more precise. But he doesn’t trouble himself by concerning himself with his dire financial situation. Rather, he continues to gamble and to spend money like water, and leaves any worrying about how to pay the bills to his loyal and trusted Guatemalan valet, Carlos, played by Samuel Finzi (Flemming, Tatort: Borowski).
But then Johann, aka Don John, bets away a tidy sum and the bank pulls the plug on him. So it’s auf Wiedersehen fancy villa, hallo decrepit garden shed.
Become a gentleman art thief-turned-amateur sleuth, that’s what.
It all starts in “Allmen and the Secret of the Dragonflies” with Johann taking Jojo Hirt (Andrea Osvárt, The Ladies’ Paradise), his friend’s fiancée and the daughter of the man who possesses “Switzerland’s second largest fortune,” to the opera.
Meanwhile, von Allmen is still in hock to Terry Werenbusch (Ben Becker, The Same Sky), a nasty, violence-prone criminal who wants his money back. Yesterday.
So Johann ventures into selling off bits of his arts and antiques collection as well as to stealing valuable objets d’art (like priceless glass bowls) from others and selling these, too. The latter marks him for murder, an attempt that he, of course, survives. Unfortunately, one of his associates isn’t so lucky.
Then a twist in the story leads to von Allmen coming up with a money-making idea that actually works.
By the start of the second episode, “Allmen and the Pink Diamond,” Johann has turned his “ability to find lost treasures of art into a profession.” Although business had been slow, it picks up at Allmen International Inquiries when a Mr. Montgomery (Tomas Spencer, The Undertaker) gives Johann a SFr.20,000 advance on a job to find a stolen pink diamond known as the ‘Eye of Shiva.’
In following the leads provided by his new client, Johann spends tens of thousands of euros that he doesn’t have in Germany, and is interrogated by the Rostock police as a suspect in a man’s death. Back in Switzerland, Carlos is falling for Maria Moreno (Isabella Parkinson, The Mechanism), a Colombian woman recently hired as Johann’s new maid.
As with the first story, this one also involves a plot twist — one that puts the lives of Johann and Carlos in grave jeopardy. More than once.
Based on the best-selling “Allmen” novels by Swiss author Martin Suter, this series is an entertaining counterpoint to Nordic noir and other dark crime dramas. Call it crime lite.
The stories are intricate but not overly complex, so they won’t do your head in. Ferch and Finzi give terrific performances as Johann and Carlos, one of my new favorite mystery-solving duos. And the peppering of recognizable guest stars in the first two episodes, including Peter Kurth (Babylon Berlin), Jörg Pintsch (You Are Wanted), Nora von Waldstätten (The Team), and Hanns Zischler (Flemming), gives them a feeling of familiarity.
Plus Allmen is quite humorous — from its quirky characters like the IT specialist who refers to himself in the third person, to Carlos’ side-eye looks, to Johann’s deadpan delivery of statements like “I don’t have a problem with who I am.” (You’ll get why I guffawed when you see and hear it in context.) Add to that Johann’s penchant for breaking the fourth wall and offering up not-so-famous quotes and sayings, not to mention the gorgeous aerial shots, and you have a host of reasons for watching.
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