Rainer Werner Fassbinder channels American film noir through an expressionistic lens. Info
Whether it is part parody or part homage or both, 1970's Der Amerikanische Soldat (The American Soldier) is all Fassbinder in that it challenges viewers to crack through the muted layers of the actors' performances. A signature of Rainer Werner Fassbinder's style is the concept that his actors are posing rather than bringing across an authentic portrayal of a specific emotional experience. While this may frustrate some viewers, it is very effective approach in this German film noir.
Karl Scheydt plays Ricky, an American soldier from Germany. He has just finished a tour in Vietnam and goes back to his hometown of Munich, where he becomes a hitman for three rogue cops. He reconnects with his childhood best friend Franz Walsch (played by none other than Fassbinder himself). Shadows are cast in a way that evokes classic American film noir. Ricky gets involved with the girlfriends of one of the rogue cops, making an already dangerous situation even more complex.
The Ricky character is an approximation of a caricature of American film noir hitmen, with his wide-lapeled suits, fedoras, and icy disposition. Again, this could be parody or homage, and Fassbinder handles it masterfully. This is one of the director's earlier works and may not appeal to all viewers, but the black-and-white cinematography, combined with Fassbinder's grasp of German expressionism, will still undoubtedly leave an impression upon an initial screening. —Edwanike Harbour