Reviewed by Robert Pardi

Rainer Werner Fassbinder's revisionist gangster film is a tip of the fedora to Hollywood noir films that's somewhat reminiscent of Eddie Constantine's French crime dramas. Newly released from prison, armed robber Franz Walsch (Harry Baer) has difficulty readjusting to life in Munich, where everyone is a potential mark. Although he's reunited with his ex-girlfriend, the long-suffering Joanna Reiher (Hanna Schygulla), he's too restless to make a commitment to her. Joanna, who supported Franz for years, retaliates by breaking up his relationship with Magdalena Fuller (Ingrid Caven), but he simply takes up with a younger woman, Margarethe (Margarethe von Trotta). The local police commissioner, meanwhile, is keeping an eye on Franz in hopes that the ex-convict will lead authorities to his former crony, Gunther the Gorilla (Gunther Kaufman). Although the Gorilla allegedly murdered Franz's brother, Franz reconnects with him and the reunited felons then touch base with their semi-retired associate, Jo (Micha Cochina). In this shadowy world of snitches and constant surveillance, a pornographer named Carla (Carla Aulaulu) sells Joanna tidbits about Franz's activities; she learns through the grapevine that Franz is planning to knock off a supermarket. She naturally informs the vengeful Joanna, who decides to use the information to make sure Franz gets what's coming to him. Franz and the Gorilla gain the confidence of a law-abiding old friend named Martin (Hannes Gromball), who owns a grocery store, while Joanna sleeps with a police detective who's been kepping tabs on Franz. All hell breaks loose when he interrupts Franz's heist, and several people die. The wounded Gorilla subsequently seeks retribution against Carla. Will Joanna, the woman scorned, have the last laugh? Far more polished than Fassbinder's earlier underworld melodrama, LOVE IS COLDER THAN DEATH (1969), this wallow in fatalism is a minor but memorable crime flick. Although Fassbinder was attracted to the conventions of the American crime film, he found his true calling re-interpreting another American genre — the Women's Melodrama of the 1950s.