A German reworking of Se7en, this thoroughly grim serial killer flick should have been called Sieben, since it models everything from its rain-soaked urban landscapes to its sombre, brooding atmosphere on David Fincher's 1995 masterpiece.
"DISTURBINGLY AMORAL WORLD"
In Berlin, romper stomper copper Detective Minks (Christian Redl) is on the trail of a slasher who has made a habit of slicing off huge swathes of his victims' skin. Minks is convinced that the killer's preying on the local tattooing community so he blackmails club-loving rookie Schrader (August Diehl) into helping him infiltrate the world of body modification, piercings and tattoos in exchange for keeping schtum about the youngster's dodgy drug record.
Uncovering a literal "skin trade" in which collectors pay for fancy tattoos to be removed from the skin of willing (or sometimes unwilling donors), Minks and Schrader find themselves sucked into a disturbingly amoral world in which art is never more than skin deep, and collectors will stop at nothing to get the works they're after.
Revelling in its attempts to distress, this thriller is refreshingly sadistic, with a catalogue of flayed corpses, morgue scenes and modified flesh - including a woman with a forked tongue. Robert Schwentke is obviously a director who's willing to go all out in his search for the sensational, burrowing deep beneath the audience's skin to get results.
In its eagerness to shock us, though, Tattoo sacrifices everything else. Without the benefit of an equally manipulative script, Schwentke's attempts to appal us eventually just bore: the film's inability to deliver anything we haven't seen before becomes its chief flaw. It's not without merit, but as they'd say in Germany, it's decidedly ersatz.