Friday, 2 May 2008


After the death of Claudia Diehl (Diana Frank), killed while he was trying to stop the theft of confidential documents with her and his friend Tobias « Dobbs » Steiger (Thomas Anzenhofer), The Clown, alias Max Zander (Sven Martinek) decides to give up his fight for justice. But Zorbek (Götz Otto), Claudia's murderer, has hidden some plans stolen during the attack in a giant shopping mall near the place of the operation. Max, now a security guard in this mall, is waiting since four long years that Zorbek and his team return to get the documents.

But TV reporter Leah Diehl (Eva Habermann), Claudia's sister, is kidnapped by Zorbek and his girl Mona (Xenia Seeberg) during a violent raid against an armored truck. Dobbs, who has lost contact with Max since the death of Claudia, wants Max Zander to put the mask of the Clown again. A hero is back.

« There is good, there is evil and there is The Clown...»


When you talk about the production of television series in Germany and when you talk about action, there is a before and an after Der Clown. Created by Hermann Joha and Claude Cueni in 1996 for action concept, Joha's company - producer of Alarm for Cobra 11 (Alarm für Cobra 11 - Die Autobahn Polizeï), and german TV channel RTL, the masked defender of justice has definitely imposed the action concept style as the absolute world-wide reference on action and spectacular stunts. Should you need to be convinced just watch the first Der Clown TV movie and the pilot of the subsequent TV series (1998).

The show was put on hiatus status in 2001 after 6 succesful seasons but the fans in Germany and abroad kept asking for new episodes and action concept started to consider the idea of a TV movie similar to those of 1996 and 1998 but the project became larger than imagined at first and Hermann Joha and Rolant Hergert (at the time, one of the top executives of action concept) finally decided to offer to the Clown aficionados an ambitious feature film.

« Showtime ! » (Zorbek)

After two years of preparation work, director Sebastian Vigg (Alarm for Cobra 11, Millennium Man) and the staff and teams of action concept started the shooting of the movie during spring 2003 in Dusseldorf and in the North Rhine-Westphalia, immortalizing in 38 days on 60 000 meters of film Der Clown - Payday, the most elaborate, expensive (with a budget estimated to 8 000 000 euros), and sensational action movie ever produced in Europe by a non-american company.


« Max Zander is... The Clown ! » said the tagline of the TV series. East-german actor Sven Martinek returns to his Max Zander character with obvious pleasure. But Max's sole motivation to go on living is to be face to face with the murderer of the woman he loved in the mega mall where the former hero is now a security guard. And even the thug holding hostage his colleague (veteran Horst Sachtleben, a wonderful actor we're always happy to watch) at gunpoint will not make Max lose his nerves.

« This is unreal, today is a lucky day... » (Chief Commissioner Führmann)

Past the opening credits and the return of the (not so) lonesome hero, Sebastian Vigg, Hermann Joha and Roland Leyer - director of the action sequences with Torsten Künstler - jump into the good habits caught by action concept on Alarm for Cobra 11 (TV show known for the jovial exceptional number of explosions and car flights during the first five minutes of an episode) but to a level never reached before, with the most spectacular highway pursuit of the History of the action genre. During the chase, a television news chopper almost hits in the sky three police patrol cars blasted by a giant explosion!


Chief commissioner in Führmann (the great theatre and television actor Andreas Schmidt-Schaller), who is to The Clown what Juve was to Fantomas, sees immediatly the link between the raid over the armored truck, the kidnapping of Leah Diehl and The Clown, his long time nemesis. Meanwhile, Dobbs, who is now a corporate executive in suit (he runs his own helicopter fleet) decides to talk to Max in order to rescue Leah.

« Get a look at you.
- What, it's from Armani.
- Armani ? A friend of yours ?And he lends you his clothes ? »(Max and Dobbs)

Max agrees with his friend, who has brought with him the black outfit and the mask of The Clown « just in case » (« How come no-one ever told me how stupid I look »). The time has come for Zander to do what he does best when Führmann and his young assistant Salbach (Xaver Hutter) enter in the Rhein-Ruhr mall with he cavalry, obliging The Clown and his partner to leave the place in the new BMW station wagon of Dobbs (« Nice car, also from Armani ?- No from BMW, which by the way won't fit through there »). The car loses its two rear view mirrors in the process and this is merely the beginning of its troubles.

« Not quite going like you planned.
- When did I ask your opinion ? » (Leah and Zorbek)

There is no high level action thriller without a super-vilain. Götz Otto, popularized in 1997 with Tomorrow never dies, is the ideal challenger for the Clown, with the physique abilities necessary for the role of Zorbek and the solid experience of the stage, movie and television actor he is. He knows how to give the distance and the cynic sense of humor this kind of character must have (like the great Powers Boothe in Sudden Death). Regarding this aspect, the scene of the pizza ordered by one of his henchmen will remain a cult-classic (« Anyone for pizza? »).


« Like I always say, if you run fast enough you'll fly » (Dobbs, who runs a respectable company)

Ciltius, Altius, Fortius could easily be the motto of action concept. If it's almost in a compulsive way that the splendid « Bimmer » of poor Dobbs ends deep in the water of the abandonned pool used as headquarters by Zorbek, Mona and their gang, that's just to prepare the spectators to an epic confrontation in the mall (John McClane dreamt it, Hermann Joha did it).

Follow sequences reminiscent of the golden era of James Bond 007 and an helicopter crash with a punch-line from Dobbs a la T.C. in Magnum P.I. (Dobbs beeing clearly a tribute to Magnum's friend): « First the Bimmer, now my chopper ». There's no doubt that 007 is the supreme reference of Hermann Joha's teams.

« You won't dare » (Chief Führmann discovers one of the many ways to drive a S.U.V.)

Because to steal the safe of the Nakatomi Plaza Tower would seem cheap, Zorbek wants to rob all the gold of Germany's Federal reserve (« The national piggy bank ») and will make a huge hole in a dam to succeed without the single trace of hesitation. 12 complete days of shooting were necessary to film all the stunts of the movies, sometimes with 15 cameras shooting simultaneously. 12 stuntmen and 2 stunt women delivered thrilling entertainment never seen before, even within the company's TV shows. Of course, as always with an action concept production, the main cast was physically trained and learned how to use the weapons used in the movie.

« Maybe he's trying to get under our radar.
- Yeah but we don't have a radar ». (A military and his commanding officer)


Der Clown - Payday litterally explodes the standards of the Clown TV series, this is not a simple adaptation of Der Clown but an original super-thriller with characters we're familiar with. Director Sebastian Vigg shows his talent and his mastery of a production with classy photography (Diethard Prengel) and editing (Daniela Beauvais). Timo Berndt (3 Wild angels) offers us an efficient screenplay of the quality of the best James Bond stories, he escapes from the TV series without betraying the fans with even some surprises, when « Take your mask off for me » Führmann is not as stubborn as he usually seems.

« In the end it comes down to honor, and what destroys you » (Führmann, man of honor)

Eva Habermann is a fantastic replacement for the magnificent Diana Frank and it's very amusing to see her playing with Xenia Seeberg (remember Lexx...) Action, humor, physical and pyro technical performances and an excellent and clever soundtrack composed by Kay Skerra, with a song of Exilia for end title (the main title of the TV show is not used, which is very smart) are the ingredients of this « Payday » shaken and very stirred.

The Clown has received a very prestigious Taurus Award in September 2005 in the Best foreign action movie category. Among the competitors there was New Police Story with Jackie Chan, which means something.

The name is Joha, Hermann Joha. More than Entertainment, the quintessence of a genre.

(c) Thierry Attard

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