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Blood and Gold review – second world war spaghetti western is good pulpy fun

This Netflix-backed action-driven story is effectively a spaghetti western that just happens to unfold in Germany in the last days of the second world war. (A sauerkraut or currywurst western?) Director Peter Thorwarth strives for that same pulpy-elegiac blend that made the films by Sergios Leone and Corbucci, Franco Nero and all the rest so compelling and repellent, with their squelchy violence and operatic conflict. Per the title, there’s indeed a lot of blood.

It starts with Heinrich (Robert Maaser), a lowly private in a small platoon about to be hanged for desertion because he’s disgusted by his side’s actions and just wants to go home and find his kid. But, counter to the German stereotype of ruthless efficiency, the troops just drive off and leave him to die instead without making sure the job is finished. He’s cut down from the tree by plucky farmer’s daughter Elsa (Marie Hacke), who is protecting her homestead as well as her brother Paule (Simon Rupp). Paule has an unspecified learning disability, and Elsa has managed to shield him from being sent to the death camps like so many “defective” people were under the Nazis. But soon Heinrich and the siblings must defend the farm against troops who come looking for plunder.

Meanwhile, in the neighbouring town commanding officer (Alexander Scheer, hamming it up with glee) and brutal sergeant (Roy McCrerey) are threatening to shoot the townspeople unless they hand over the rumoured stash of gold left behind by a Jewish family who have been sent to the camps. A mix of flashbacks and character reveal that a goodly chunk of the townsfolk deserve to die for their own heinous actions; some, like the local priest and an older woman, are made of finer stuff – perhaps not exactly noble but at least they choose to help Heinrich and Elsa when push comes to shove.

The last hour is one long escalating boss-fight as the two factions slug it out, pretty much destroying the local church in the process. It’s predictable but tightly staged and well paced, and if you’re scrolling through the streaming platform looking for something fresh, it’s not a bad choice for switch-your-brain-off entertainment.

• Blood and Gold is released on 26 May on Netflix.