Set in the dark underbelly of the underground music scene, Amazon’s grimy original drama BEAT is a compelling but ultimately unremarkable crime drama. Antihero Beat (Jannis Niewöhner) manages to inject some much-needed energy into this 7 hour thriller as the story slowly unfolds, revealing an intricate web of organ trafficking and international crime hiding in the dark recesses of Berlin.
As the series progresses, the story still clings to its musical roots but becomes less about the music scene and more about the international crime ring Beat’s infiltrated and determined to bring down. It’s at this point where the show falls into a more formulaic groove than it perhaps deserves. Given the slick production value and surprisingly accurate depiction of underground dance music, BEAT certainly deserves a stronger plot than what we’re given. Although the show is still entertaining, albeit a little overlong, it is graced with a satisfying conclusion to this story which is a welcome sign given the tendency to end these sorts of shows on a cliffhanger.
The story begins with an impressive opening tracking shot as we follow our main character, club promoter and drug addict Beat, from the cold, unforgiving streets of Berlin to the sweaty underground Techno scene. After taking enough drugs to see him through the night, a shocking discovery sobers him up as two suspended bodies are found in the club, cut open with their organs missing. After a brief altercation with the police, he begrudgingly agrees to work with the ESI, a secret European government agency, to help bring down a known prolific criminal who just so happens to be co-owner of the club he’s promoter of.
What follows from here is a 7 hour thriller that sees Beat uncover the extent of the corruption, revealing an intricate web of organ trafficking and murder, stemming from the darkest depths of the underground scene all the way up to international crime rings. As the story progresses we learn more about Beat’s past, criminal ring leader Philipp Vossberg (Alexander Fehling) and the various faces in the organisation. This all leads to a showdown between Beat and Philipp that sees our anti-hero putting it all on the line to try to bring down the head of the organisation.
With the exception of Beat himself, the rest of the cast fail to inspire the same interest as our lead protagonist. While Philipp’s arrogant and dangerous demeanour makes him a worthy adversary of sorts, he also fails to inject enough charisma into his performance to really make him stand out. Some of the supporting cast are pretty good though with spunky ESI agent Emelia (Karoline Herfurth) and empathetic Dr Brandt (Karl Markovics) the stand outs but beyond that the rest of the cast do well but are largely unremarkable in their respective roles.
The overall production design and general grittiness does go some way to help give this crime thriller some polish. Sickly neon colours and pumping techno contrast beautifully with the more tranquil and brightly lit scenes during the day. That’s not to say these are void of action, quite the contrary, there are numerous tense moments involving shootouts or bites of action that help the pacing of the show, especially late on. All of this builds to a climactic end that sees a resolution to Beat and Philipp’s rivalry and a satisfying conclusion to this thriller.
While Beat itself isn’t necessarily a badly produced show, next to German behemoths like Babylon Berlin and Dark, it fails to inspire the same lasting power those German shows manage to conjure. There’s just enough here to see you through to the end and Beat himself is certainly an interesting character, slotting nicely into the anti-hero trope with just enough intrigue to keep you watching to see how his story plays out. Unfortunately the show lacks the cutting edge needed to help it stand out next to other crime thrillers in this overly saturated genre. Still, Beat’s 7 hour ride is enjoyable and there’s enough here to make it one worth watching but its unlikely to be one you’ll remember long after the final credits have rolled.