Zobel (Gotz George), his daughter Lizzie (Jeanette Hain) and his lover Karl (Christian Redl) are a closely knit, hardworking trio of expert pickpockets who scours the grim German countryside in a rattletrap RV in search of fresh prey. Threatened only by Lizzie’s growing restlessness and the increasing frequency and intensity of Zobel and Karl’s spats, it would seem as if the merry band, with its variety of smooth diversions and well practiced lifting techniques, could pilfer its way to a successful retirement. Until, that is, a botched job leads to a very unpleasant collision between a van and a distraught Karl.
Their livelihood suddenly endangered by this missing component, Lizzie seeks out Rudolf (Felix Eitner), a hunky mechanic and amateur pickpocket who failed in an earlier attempt to swipe Karl’s wallet. Zobel and Lizzie embark on a crash training course with the emergency replacement, who makes up in attitude what he lacks in technique. All goes well until ol’ Rudy decides to sleep not only with the boss, but with the boss’ daughter as well.
A decidedly “alternate lifestyle” take on a classic screwball comedy motif ensues as Rudolf flits from father to daughter, all the while desperately trying to keep one from knowing about the other. This, of course, is impossible and all too soon, just as things are starting to get interesting, he’s busted. While this is where Rudolf’s problems begin, they began a lot earlier for the movie as a whole.
“The Trio” isn’t nearly the lighthearted romp it sounds like for starters, as it unfolds under an omnipresent aura of gritty depression that hangs over the whole sordid mess. Face it, Zobel and the gang are crooks and mean-spirited crooks at that.
Worse, Rudolf doesn’t firmly ensconce himself between Zobel and Lizzie until over an hour into this 97 minute film. Instead, director Hermine Huntgeburth burns up more than half of the movie on Zobel and Karl’s relationship that, plotwise, goes nowhere. As a result, he’s forced to cram all the clandestine sexcapades as well their jumbled and meandering aftermath into the last disjointed third of the film.
In essence, this is a film about despicable people with unpalatable careers in a dreary and depressing place. That’s a downer of a triad that makes “The Trio” one very gloomy comedy indeed. – Merle Bertrand