The six-part German-Austrian mini-series “Your Honor”, produced for Erste and ORF, is an adaptation of the Israeli original “Your Honor”, of which there are already several international remakes. In the US version of the broadcaster Showtime 2020, “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston took over the role of the falling judge. In the latest version, we are no longer in muggy New Orleans, but in wintry Innsbruck, where Michael Jacobi works as presiding judge at the Higher Regional Court and, among other things, also leads trials against organized crime. Years ago he sentenced the head of a Serbian drug clan to prison; the threat to the Jacobi family went so far that his wife took her own life. Since then he has been the single father of 17-year-old Julian (Taddeo Kufus).
The ball now starts rolling when the same teenager, after failing his driving test, drives off on his own in his car and knocks down a motorcyclist, after which he commits a hit-and-run. Michael Jacobi only understands the full extent of the disaster when he sees on television that the victim of the accident is, of all people, the son of the convicted clan leader. He is aware that his own son’s life would not be worth a damn if the Serbs found out that he was driving the car. So Jacobi relies on silence and cover-ups and has the accident car removed. His friendly relationships with numerous officials from various authorities help him, from the detective inspector Gabriele Kirchner (Ursula Strauss) to the customs officer Franz Brunner (Sascha Alexander Geršak), who himself has a criminal history. Unfortunately, the hired driver is caught by the police and Kirchner also becomes suspicious. Jacobi, threatened from all sides, becomes increasingly desperate and eventually no longer shy away from becoming a criminal himself.
It’s an old story: the father who, in order to save his son, pushes all boundaries until he’s not even left with his self-respect. Sebastian Koch plays this psychological and moral decline credibly and multi-layered. While Jacobi initially acts in a (supposedly) rational, calm and considered manner, his actions become increasingly hectic and emotional until he can no longer control his nerves. His opponent Kirchner embodies Ursula Strauss (“Schnell determined”) as an outwardly always calm woman, but by no means emotionless when she realizes what the respected judge is involved in. Unfortunately, newcomer Taddeo Kufus remains rather pale as Julian Jacobi, who all the time gives the impression that neither the suffering he has caused nor the danger he is in would affect him in any way.
The screenplay by David Marian and David Nawrath (the latter also directed the film) cleverly plays with the viewer’s identification patterns. If you still have a clear sympathy for Jacobi at the beginning and fear that he and his son will not be caught in dangerous situations, in the later episodes the sympathies slowly shift in favor of the inspector and the victims, who Jacobi’s basically selfish actions leave behind as “collateral damage”. .
The story of the Jacobis is embedded in the larger framework of the gang war between two mafia clans that dominate the Tyrolean drug trade: on the one hand the Sailovics, on the other the Italians, who in turn work together with the local meat tycoon Uli Lindner (Tobias Moretti). The Austrian star with blonde Dieter Bohlen hairstyle and a strong Tyrolean accent always plays the latter a little too much on the verge of overacting. Paula Beer (“Bad Banks”) embodies the daughter of the Serbian clan chief and sister of the accident victim with a mixture of external cold and internally seething anger. This Arija Sailovic studied law, works in a respected law firm and yet knows that she will never escape her home environment because of the social prejudices. As a young woman in a criminal family clan, it is doubly difficult for her to find acceptance.
It’s such complex characters that make the story interesting. Unfortunately, the authors generally focus more on the plot, which often seems constructed, than on character drawings and development. The coincidence of the accident victim and the cause of the accident, which seems implausible from the beginning, is invalidated towards the end, but otherwise some wheels just mesh too smoothly. The network of figures alone: Sure, Innsbruck is not a global metropolis, but the fact that everyone in the Tyrolean state capital seems to know each other – not only judges, police officers, politicians and manufacturers, but also customs officers, seems unrealistic.
All in all, Marian and Marwath succeed in creating a fascinating portrait of a city in what feels like eternal winter, to which Tobias von dem Borne’s camera work contributes: snow-covered, dark, wedged between high mountains, the people here are thrown back on themselves. There is no escaping the narrowness of social entanglements. With somewhat more believable plot developments and a less mixed cast, this version of “Your Honor” could have become a real German-speaking series highlight.
This text is based on viewing the complete miniseries, Your Honor.
My rating: 3.5/5
The first shows the miniseries on Saturday, April 9th from 8:15 p.m. with four episodes and on Sunday, April 10th from 9:45 p.m. with two episodes. All six episodes are already available in the ARD media library.