It's apparent from the opening scene that there aren't too many nice people in the German noir Jerichow. Thomas (Benno Fürmann) is pulled away from his mother's funeral by a small-time gangster looking for money he's owed. After the guy finds some stashed in Thomas' childhood treehouse (funds that Thomas was saving to renovate his mom's home), he leaves Thomas face down and unconscious on the lawn.
A few days later, a car whizzes past Thomas, spinning out of control and nearly landing in a nearby lake. Thomas rescues the drunken Ali (Hilmi Sözer), who shows his gratitude by telling the cops that Thomas, a dishonorably discharged war veteran, was driving.
After he loses his license because of another drunk-driving incident, Ali offers Thomas a job making deliveries to snack shops around town, a booming business he runs with Laura, his young, pretty and blonde wife (Nina Hoss). It doesn't take long for the young and handsome Thomas to fall for her. She falls too, and it's easy to see why — Ali is an older, dumpy Turkish man with a raging abusive streak, even when he's not drunk. He's also very suspicious of his wife, often following her during her daily errands.
Ali is aware of Thomas' attraction to Laura, who married Ali for his money, even forcing Thomas to slow dance with his wife during a boozy beach picnic, effectively setting the movie's linchpin. If you're familiar with The Postman Always Rings Twice, you know what happens next.
Director Christian Petzold's take on James M. Cain's classic retains much of Postman's simmering sexuality and malice. Thomas and Laura are animalistic, selfish and impulsive (and kinda one-note — we never learn why he was discharged from the army or how he got so deep in debt). Noir's primary element may be absent — most of Jerichow takes place in broad daylight — but the feeling is there. And so are the broken and flawed people doing some very bad things to each other.