Police officer Ali Zoller (Ken Duken – Professionals, Inglourious Basterds) is having a bad day. A very bad day. A simple prisoner transfer has gone awry, resulting in car chases, explosions, a pissed off boss, and – worst of all – having to work with his estranged brother Leo (Fabian Busch) of the Saxony Police to uncover what went wrong, clear his name, and – most importantly – get the girl who happens to be leading the class action law suit against him.
This is the basic plot of Drift – Partners in Crime, a German-language, standard fare police action series. If you like action movies like The Bourne Identity or Gray Man, and TV series like Jack Ryan and Reacher, then this series will be right up your alley. With the added bonus of subtitles so you can practice your German and French.
The story focuses heavily on Ali Zoller, who is a hard drinking, hard living MMA-fighting cop who has been suspended for a prisoner transfer gone wrong. Ken Duken is believable as the slightly dishevelled cop with a penchant for comfy jumpers trying to clear his name, ably assisted by his estranged brother, Leo. The relationship between the two brothers feels realistic; equal parts frustration, antagonism, and support. You get the feeling that these two like each other but struggle to understand the other’s point of view. Leo is a much quieter character, who sometimes is a bit too soft. Whilst his home life is a mess, his ability as a detective is solid and you get the feeling he will get his man. Eventually. As long as Ali stops driving.
Any police procedural also lives or dies on the competence of its villains. And in Drift the villains are surprisingly competent and for the most part easy to spot, as they speak in French rather than German. Whilst the investigation part of the series is solid, running down leads and plenty of car chases, the rest of the show is a bit more disjointed, and overall Drift takes a while to warm up and find its feet. The first few episodes feel more like vignettes, and its hard to see where the story is going. Characters appear without being named, and oddly abrupt endings and heavy scene cuts leave the viewer feeling like maybe they missed a scene or five.
There are occasions where the subtitles don’t feel like they are properly conveying the spoken words. There are some strange choices, where the word placed in the subtitles is clearly meant to convey how shit a situation is, but the subtitles replace it with sucks. This wouldn’t be as noticeable if in later scenes the words shit and bullshit weren’t subtitled. It seems a peculiar decision for no apparent reason.
In addition to some odd translation efforts and heavy-handed editing, there is misplaced sub-plot involving a wannabe rally driver, complete with shots of cars racing through woods, and rolling down hills in slow motion. The explanation of this part of the plot’s inclusion when it arrives, is telegraphed, predictable, and frankly boring. It could easily be removed, and if it had been, Drift would have had a stronger narrative with tighter storytelling. As it is, watching a car rolling down a hill at the start of an episode, without context, explanation or connection to the end of the previous episode, simply serves to confuse the viewer and leave them wondering if Sky have accidentally broadcast an episode of a completely different show.
To begin with, Drift feels like it is not quite sure what it wants to be. Is it a buddy-cop show, a serious action show, a conspiracy thriller, a police procedural, or a documentary on the life and times of a rally driver? However, once it finds its feet, Drift is a solid police procedural with sensible characters making interesting choices for believable reasons. A definite one to persevere with that pays off at the end.
Drift – Partners in Crime premieres on Sky Atlantic and NOW on 10th March.