The Reeperbahn of the 70s and 80s offers one of the most exciting gangster stories in German history. Pimps with dazzling names like “Der schön Klaus” or “Karate-Tommy” founded gangs called the “Nutella Gang”. They adorned themselves with Lamborghinis and Rolex watches and settled arguments with money or fists. Your sex workers, derogatory”Chickencalled, were pushed into the milieu with false promises, beaten up and exploited. The Amazon series Luden – Könige der Reeperbahn wants shed light on these fates, be gangster action and hard-hitting drama at the same time. And that’s her biggest problem.
That’s what the Amazon series Luden is about
Klaus Barkowsky (Aaron Hilmer) dreams of making it big. With what, the bartender and weekend artist doesn’t really know. When he protects the prostitute Jutta (Jeanette Hain) from her brutal pimp Walter “Beatle” Vogeler and gets beaten for it, everything changes for him.
Since she likes his dreamy nature, Jutta wants to work for Klaus in the future. In return, he is supposed to protect her from Beatle and his gang, the so-called GmbH. Klaus hires his friends Andi (Henning Flüsloh) and Bernd (Noah Tinwa) so that he doesn’t have to face the bigwigs alone. Soon dozens of women are in the employ of the new Nutella gang, but the fight for St. Pauli is becoming more and more unscrupulous. The three friends and Jutta have to make decisions that will haunt them forever.
Amazon series Luden stages pimps as rock ‘n’ roll stars
A story about the Reeperbahn in the 80s is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the forgotten splendor of the gangsters with their sports cars and blow-dried hairstyles is appealing. The staged ruthlessness of the milieu profits from curious nicknames and Nordic tidbits. On the other side is the deep abyss of prostitution with its systematic exploitation and brutal violence against women.
Amazon Prime Video
Aaron Hilmer as Klaus Barkowsky in Luden
The producers of the series stage Luden as a daydreamer’s ascension, who sleepwalks into pimping. Luden is very entertaining here: bright colors, tempo, action, rock music, quirky characters and a production design that brings 80’s St. Pauli to life from fur coats to billboards to the furthest corners of the greasy booths. The series is in no way inferior to its milieu colleague The Golden Glove.
Luden has a huge problem with his male heroes
At the same time, the producers know that in doing so they are inevitably glorifying the pimps’ lifestyle. That is why they also shed light on the hard fates of sex workers. Especially Jeanette Hain’s performance as Jutta is great. Her hard-boiled character is thrown off course by heroin addiction and the appearance of her teenage daughter Manu (Lena Urzendowsky).
Unfortunately, the series can never decide between the entertainment factor of the rock’n’roll pimp and the moral obligation of the prostitute’s fate. Until shortly before the end, Klaus and his friends are clear figures of identification, are seen as fragile artistic souls and spirited bon vivants staged with an urge for love. And all while beating up women or send her to 30 men on an oil rig for sex work.
Amazon Prime Video
Jeanette Hain as Jutta in Luden
They make clumsy slapstick cartoons that make a fool of themselves with big dreams. Her character drawing is always flashy enough for entertainment, but always too superficial to create a moral dilemma in the audience. Aaron Hilmer’s Klaus stutters and stumbles through one situation after another, and for that, it seems, one shouldn’t blame him for the merciless exploitation of women.
The stories of the prostitutes are neglected in Luden
There is little time left for the fate of the exploited. Jeanette Hain’s role only gets the weight it deserves in the last few episodes, otherwise the makers want it make up for the lack of depth of many characters with their number. The neighborhood newcomer (Urzendowsky), the young prostitute (Lara Feith) and the secret trans person (Tinwa) remain much paler than they should be.
Bottom line, Luden stumbles on his controversial topic. Only in the last two episodes the story ensures that the rock ‘n’ roll characters become really ambivalent and the sad characters really tragic. Until then, a very entertaining ascent story is told, but a lot of dramatic and moral clout is wasted.
The Luden series consists of 6 episodes, available from March 3, 2023 on Amazon Prime Video. All 6 episodes served as the basis for this series check.
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