4 Blocks is a German crime drama series. It stars Kida Khodr Ramadan as Ali “Toni“ Hamady, the leader of a Lebanese crime family and drug cartel in Berlin-Neukölln. He is forced to postpone his plans to leave the business to live an ordinary life with his wife, played by Maryam Zaree, when his brother-in-law, played by Massiv, is arrested. He brings in Vince Kerner, played by Frederick Lau, a boyhood friend, to restore order in the family business, much to the dislike of Toni’s brother Abbas, played by Veysel, who is eager to succeed him as the family leader. Essentially the 3 seasons of the show, depict Toni Hamady’s struggles to become legitimate while maintaining control of the drug scene in Berlin.
The first season introduces us to the Hamady crime family – the brains of the organization is Ali Hamady while his brother Abbas is the brawn (with a lack of brains to put it subtly). It introduces us also to Ali’s childhood buddy Vince Kerner, who is also an undercover cop.
The show is interesting as it covers crime in a whole new country and focuses on a completely different criminal organization than the ones we are used to through American crime dramas. There is a subdued air about the violence perpetrated by the Hamadys – they engage into conflicts with the Turkish Biker gang encroaching upon their territory, other Arab crime families vying for control over Berlin’s drug scene, the Chechen mafia and others but their most bitter conflict apparently is with the German bureaucracy and the police. The German police is shown to be highly incompetent – bureaucracy stifles their progress in every move and cops become corrupted too easily atleast on the show.
We are also introduced to the family bonding within the crime family – unlike the Cosa Nostra, the Lebanese crime family is more towards being an Arab gang led by two brothers instead of some hierarchical organization. Though pretty liberal in terms of their lifestyle, we see stereotypical Islamic values encroaching upon the gang especially when it comes to the treatment of their wives and sisters. The violence depicted is subdued compared to American crime dramas and the sheer incompetency of the police which even while facing heavily armed gangsters, aims more to subdue rather than kill which would seem strange to most people who grew up either watching American or Asian crime dramas.
Ali Hamady is played brilliantly by Kida Khodr Ramadan. He brings a menacing cunning while overseeing his business and a Lebanese Don Corleone vibe always preaching for patience. His brother Abbas, played by the German rapper Veysel, is hyper violent and desires control of the gang once his brother leaves. His bouts of rage and violence are on the lines of Santino Corleone from The Godfather but he is shown to be extremely moronic in terms of his behavior. Most of the other characters in the show seem as if they are simply passing through.
We are also introduced to young teenage drug runners wanting to be part of the crime family and other hot heads who act as the “muscle” for the Hamadys. One of them Zeki becomes a major character, as he takes the fall for the Hamadys and goes to prison (where we see him being raped) and comes out of prison and is disgruntled at the way he is treated by the Hamadys. He starts his own organization and works with the police to destroy the Hamadys but the Hamadys are quite good at destroying themselves atleast from what we see in the final season (so far). However, none of the villains bring any sort of real menace. Somehow things which seem troublesome get resolved with comical ease which never really allows you to take the show seriously.
However, the show is good at showing Berlin’s drug scene and the various gangs that control it. It also shows how the whole refugee crisis provides the Arab gangs with ready-made recruits for their organization. It also delves into the absurdity of the German bureaucracy which forces things to become extremely slow at times. Lastly it shows how much the German police has regressed and how the policy of pacification is allowing criminal organizations and regressive groups to thrive in the big cities.
If you love crime dramas and are looking for something different from your usual diet of American/British crime shows, 4 Blocks would be a good bet. Available on Amazon Prime Video internationally.