There may be no such thing as a wholly original story, but many narratives earn memorability by bringing new perspectives and urgency to themes and tales heard a thousand times before. Rising High (Betonrausch – roughly translatable as ‘concrete crazy’), Netflix’s latest German release, is unfortunately an example of the opposite. Playing as The Wolf of Wall Street without an ounce of satire or self-awareness, the strong production, pace, and performances are squandered on an overfamiliar and underexamined story.

That is not to say no fun is had; the glitzy, gutsy scams and scandals inherent in the rags-to-riches-to-rags narrative are inherently engaging and are slickly executed. David Kross turns in a quietly unsettling performance as Victor, the con artist mastermind driven by childhood trauma around his father’s bankruptcy. He cleverly mines subtext between the scripted lines to hint at the behavioural compulsions and addictions driving his schemes, lending believability to his fear and inevitable fall.

Ultimately, Rising High feels like a time capsule from before the 2008 crash; while its setting is unspecified but largely contemporary – at least from this millennium – and the film could easily be coded as a pre-recession period piece, its lack of introspection or differentiation brings the entire point of its production into question. Furthermore, considering Berlin’s recent and well-documented housing crisis and amelioration efforts, this lack of context feels an egregiously missed opportunity. One wishes for either more specificity, drilling down into the socioeconomic factors driving generational debt and economic woes in modern Berlin, or imagining a more generalised fable of greed.

Rising High is a crime caper with nothing to say, a watchable yet hollow 90 minutes. Kross’ performance, especially in its solo moments, is masterful; had it been coupled with an equally purposeful script the drama could have left its mark.


Available to watch on: Netflix


CAST: David Kross, Frederick Lau, Janina Uhse, Anne Schafer, Sophia Thomalla

DIRECTOR: Cuneyt Kaya

WRITERS: Cuneyt Kaya, Johannes Kunke

SYNOPSIS: Victor and Gerry scam their way to the top of Berlin’s property market, partying until their scams come crashing down.