‘Berlin’ Review: Netflix Series Is A Light-Hearted Heist Thriller That Lacks Dimension


Berlin was one of the most intriguing characters in the celebrated Spanish series Money Heist, and it was only a matter of time before the much-loved and criticized criminal mastermind got his spin-off. The Netflix prequel Berlin is not as entertaining as its predecessor, and it is only in a few scenes that we see a true celebration of the madness that is Berlin. The eight-episode series takes us back in time when Berlin was not suffering from terminal illness and was thriving in his line of work. The ice-cold villain is introduced as a man who wears his heart on his sleeves. While he taught the young gang members to not take risks during heists, in Berlin, we watch him bet all his cards for love!

Berlin series is more of a romantic drama than it is a heist thriller, and some might enjoy the unexpected blend of the two. But if you are searching for a thriller, then this might be a little too bland. We are introduced to broken characters who were deprived of love in one way or another, and together, the vastly different group of people decide to pull off the most promising heist of all time. The Spaniards take over Paris, the city of love, as they say, and when in Paris, love always takes the foreground (as they say). After three divorces, Berlin lost all his hope in love. But Paris mended his broken heart with his next fix, the wife of the auction house director, Camille. One must never mix business with pleasure, and Berlin, with his suave personality and adorable smile, chose to break the very important rule at the very beginning of the series.

Supporting Berlin in his grand heist are his teammates, Damian (Tristan Ulloa), Keila (Michelle Jenner), Roi (Juno Pena), Bruce (Joel Sanchez), and Cameron (Begona Vargas). Each with a specialized set of skills, Berlin was confident he had gathered the most talented crew. We find out in Berlin that the shrewd leader of the Money Heist crew had previously planned a forty-four million euro heist, stunning the whole of France. His eyes were on the auction jewels that were safely kept in the highly guarded vault of the auction house. With his team stationed at the hotel across the house of Francois Polignac, the director of the auction house, Berlin intended to monitor his every movement. The thrill in in the series comes from the romance between Berlin and Camille. An affair that the world disapproves of, but the ones involved are too enchanted to consider it. The whirlwind romance all of a sudden takes the front seat, and we watch the lovebirds spend hours and days swooning over each other without a care in the world. At times, we are left to wonder if our lover boy will ever manage to execute the heist, given how involved he has gotten in the affair! It was not just Berlin that experienced the magic of the French air. We see romance brewing between the teammates as well. Some prefer to live in denial, while others choose to deprive themselves of love for fear of losing their sanity. For Damian, the heist would always remind him of the aching pain he experienced when his wife asked him for a divorce. But at the same time, he would recall the new definition of love that he learned at the most unexpected moment in the heist.

When it comes to the script, the Netflix series does not take too many risks as opposed to its protagonist and plays by the rules. It is disappointing considering the heist we had anticipated. The series is rather a breezy affair, unlike the cult marvel Money Heist. Even though the series sticks to the expected route, its execution is definitely worth appreciating. Be it the location or the cinematography, Berlin is visually quite stunning and colorful. It is a light-hearted series where logic is not its strongest suit. Or else, how can you explain the casualness with which Berlin approaches the heist during the most crucial hours? Berlin series lacks a “Bella Ciao” moment or the Dali mask whimsy that was required for it to be absolutely mind-blowing. It is rather a soft, sweet romantic drama with a sprinkle of heist tension thrown in here and there. The edge-of-the-seat moments are towards the end, but sadly, they do not last long. The characters are not interesting enough to keep you hooked. The crises that the characters suffer from (as grave as they are) are treated most trivially. The issues are resolved far too quickly and in the most predictable manner. Also, when it comes to romance, the lack of chemistry between the supporting pairs makes it a rather dull affair.

Pedro Alonso perfectly captures Berlin’s mixed bag of emotions. From being a serious planner and strict disciplinarian to being completely whimsical when in love, Alonso presents the strange blend on the most acceptable platter. In all his easy-breeziness, Alonso successfully captures a hint of ego and Berlin’s shrewd sense of fairness as well. Samantha Siqueiros, as the doe-eyed Camille, is convincing as the woman caught at a romantic crossroads. Camille could have played a more decisive role, but unfortunately, there is an overall lack of dimension when it comes to the characters in the series. Just like every other heist film or series, there is the tech nerd, and we have Michelle Jenner as Keila taking on the role. Of course, we have the cliche of all cliches: the nerd falling in love with the guy with a sculpted figure, Bruce, played quite aptly by Joel Sanchez. The troubled soul here is Cameron, played by Begona Vargas, and once again, we have a severely diluted, one-dimensional character. Julio Pena plays the role of Roi, the leader’s trusted right-hand man.

The cult following that Money Heist has garnered will remain unparalleled. Berlin is an entertaining romantic heist thriller with an average predictable plot that must be watched without keeping any expectations. The production value is rich, and as a Netflix watch, it is visually promising, but whether that is enough reason to spend hours watching eight episodes is up for the audience to decide.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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Berlin is an entertaining romantic heist thriller with an average predictable plot that must be watched without keeping any expectations.'Berlin' Review: Netflix Series Is A Light-Hearted Heist Thriller That Lacks Dimension