Monday, 6 July 2009


Can the first kick ass TV monk since Kwaï Chang Caine and his epicurian best mate save the world from a secret organization hidden within the Vatican and save the future of German television fiction in the meantime? Since June 18th, German channel RTL gambles more than entertainment with the new show of Hermann Joha's company action concept: Lasko - Die Faust Gottes (Lasko: The Fist of God). And it's damn good!

Action concept, the production company created and helmed by Hermann Joha, made History on German television in 1996 when Joha took over from another company the destiny of a new pedestrian cop show (where he was working on the stunts) and made it a genre in its own respect, delivering Lethal Weapon and Die Hard every week. The show was called Alarm für Cobra 11 - Die Autobahnpolizeï (Alarm for Cobra 11) and still exists today. The same year came the other milestone of action concept, Der Clown (The Clown), a series which made the action sequences of the Bond franchise or of the Joel Silver productions look old-fashioned.

The regular show ran from 1998 to 2001 and in 2005 The Clown jumped to the big screen for an exceptional movie experience. Then Hermann Joha began to consider the international expansion of his company. Action concept produced big budget tv movies shot in English with international casts and worked with one of the best US television screenwriters and producers, Lee Goldberg (Fast Track: No Limits, 2008). The idea of Lasko emerged during this period in a 2006 ambitious television film (doubling as a "backdoor pilot") called Lasko – Im Auftrag des Vatikans (Lasko - Death Train), starring martial artist and actor Mathis Landwehr (Kampfansage - Der Letzte Schüller/The Challenge, 2005) as Lasko - an ex-soldier retired as a monk.

Unfortunately the weaknesses of Death Train were plethoric: an heavy international casting, exquisitely talented Arnold Vosloo playing 24's Habib Marwan, a script burdened with clichés. It was basically an inflated version of a Walker Texas Ranger two-parter without the Chuckster and its only valuable assets were Landwehr, the reliable Stephan Bieker as Gladius, the scene of the ambulance and the last 15 minutes of the movie. So why bother to watch a regular series three years later? Because Lasko - Die Faust Gottes is 150% better than its pilot. In fact, it's one of the best German shows of these last five years with GSG9 (Special Unit, 2007-2008).

Brother Lasko is a most special monk. He carries the ring of Pugnus Dei ("The Fist of God" in Latin), an ancestral secret monastic order fighting for justice. When an airliner from Congo with Sophia von Erlen (Simone Hanselmann) - a BKA agent - on its board, is derouted by a group of terrorists and forced to land on a road in the middle of the countryside, Lasko gets rid of the assailants the hard way and save Sophia right in front of the counter-terrorist units. The hijack operation was ordered by Ares, an occult lodge within the Vatican, and now Lasko and his loyal friend, the epicurian and sympathetic Brother Gladius, must fight their new dangerous enemy.

With Lasko: The Fist of God, action concept goes back to its roots in absolute brilliance with spectacular action and adventure perfectly fitted into effective scripts and packed with a lot of distance and humor. Mathis Landwehr is charismatic as Lasko and incredible in the fighting sequences (1), Stephan Bieker almost steals the show as Gladius, heir of a long string of faithful acolytes from Friar Tuck to Obelix and Bud Spencer. First class German actor André Hennicke is the BKA boss after playing the same kind of character in GSG9. The concept of the modern monk warrior has been retooled with hard work and it shows: the Ares lodge, a Da Vinci Code type organization, is a great addition.

The revamped Lasko arrives at a moment where German television fiction is in a very bad shape as local viewers favor US cop shows. It's a test for television networks in Germany and for Hermann Joha's company as well. Lasko - Die Faust Gottes is the perfect way to spend a thursday evening on German tv, it's another jewel in the crown of action concept after Alarm for Cobra 11 and The Clown. The series is well played, well filmed - the landscapes are stunningly beautiful (the show will certainly boost tourism on the shooting sites), well scripted and the soundtrack is great too.

More than Entertainment... A state of mind. (In German) (Trailer)

(1) Warren Murphy would certainly differ but I firmly believe since The Challenge that Mathis Landwehr would be a fantastic Remo Williams. In the past your humble servant even tried to whisper in the ear of action concept the idea to buy the rights of The Destroyer series for an adaptation.

See also:

(C) Thierry Attard

1 comment:

Lee Goldberg said...

I agree with you about LASKO. It's a lot of fun. The ratings are good so there's a strong chance the show will be back.

I'm a big fan of Mathis Landwehr (I am developing a movie project for him with Action Concept). He has a quality that most martial-arts/action guys don't have: heart. Women find him sensitive and lovable...something you could never say about Steven Segal or Jean-Claude Van Damme. I think Mathis has the potential to be a big star (and he speaks perfect English).