Tattoo (Film)

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Original title Tattoo
Country of production Germany
Original language English, German, Japanese
Year of publication 2002
Length 108 minutes
Age rating FSK 16[1]
Director Robert Schwentke
Screenplay Robert Schwentke
Production Jan Hinter, Roman Kuhn
Music Martin Todsharov
Camera Jan Fehse
Edited by Peter Przygodda
  • August Diehl: Inspector Marc Schrader
  • Christian Redl: Inspector Minks
  • Nadeshda Brennicke: Maya Kroner
  • Johan Leysen: Frank Schoubya
  • Fatih Çevikkollu: Dix
  • Monica Bleibtreu: Commissioner Roth
  • İlknur Bahadır: Meltem
  • Joe Bausch: Günzel
  • Florian Panzner: Poscher
  • Jasmin Schwiers: Marie Minks
  • Gustav-Peter Wöhler: Check
  • Ingo Naujoks: Stefan Kreiner
  • Christiane Scheda: Lynn Wilson
  • Wanda Perdelwitz: Baby
  • Axel Häfner: Tattoo artist

Tattoo [tə’tu:] is a 2002 German thriller film directed by Robert Schwentke.


At the beginning you see from behind a naked woman running across a dark street with a badly injured back. She dies in a collision with a bus coming from a side street.

Thereupon a criminal case begins with the two commissioners Minks and Schrader. The young Schrader, who has just completed his training at the police academy, has experience with the red light district and the drug scene. The experienced colleague Minks uses this information to blackmail Schrader. If he does not cooperate with him in the homicide department, his career will be prematurely ended. Minks urgently needs access to the unfamiliar world, because a serial killer is prowling around there who is after an unusual prey: The psychopath seeks out victims with extensive tattoos. After killing them, he peels off their decorated skin and sells them to collectors.

During the investigation, the detectives find more and more mutilated corpses. Schrader is distracted from the investigation when he meets the attractive Maya, the girlfriend of one of the victims. Minks, on the other hand, is worried about his teenage daughter Marie, who left him over two years ago after the death of his wife. He fears that she has become involved in the drug scene.

Schrader manages to track Marie down and learns that the reason for her disappearance was her father’s overpowering protective urge, which she was no longer able to cope with. At the same time, it slowly becomes apparent that the killer is apparently a collector of rare tattoos. This tip comes from another collector, Frank Schoubya, who, among other things, buys tattoos from junkie Stefan to preserve and hang. Schrader starts a relationship with Maya, who, it turns out, also has large tattoos and is the last piece of art by the best Japanese tattoo artist before his suicide

Schrader succeeds in catching the perpetrator of the murders. He reveals to Schrader that he is carrying out the murders on his behalf. When Schrader draws his gun to prevent him from escaping, the killer pulls the gun towards him and pulls the trigger, making it appear as if Schrader had shot him in the mouth.

On the same day, Minks gets a small package delivered to the police station, containing a small skin flap with a tattooed devil, a car key and a parking ticket. Schrader recognizes Marie’s tattoo. Minks goes to the parking garage and opens a suitcase located in Marie’s car. He then drives his car and the suitcase, which probably contains his daughter’s body, to a lonely spot and shoots himself.

Schrader now tries even more vehemently to find the actual criminal. He puts Maya on the Internet as bait and offers the tattoo of the first victim for sale. However, the action does not go as planned: A colleague dies in the process, the tattoo is stolen and Maya, who had been under police protection, disappears without a trace.

Schrader learns from his colleague that Maya is suspected of killing the Japanese tattoo artist in New York. It seems that she is behind all the murders in Germany. She was the tattoo artist’s girlfriend and apparently couldn’t stand how he lost interest in her as soon as her tattoo, his masterpiece, was finished.
Schrader, despite burning the tattoo collection, tries in vain to learn more from the lawyer Schoubya.

Maya is last seen sitting in a café, looking at the waiter’s tattoo in the style of her slain ex-boyfriend
After the first part of the credits, Schrader is seen getting Maya’s tattoo done the traditional way.


  • The idea of a murderer acting with tattoos can already be found in a short story by Roald Dahl.
  • The tattoo on Joe Bausch’s body resembles the woodblock print The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai


“A crude crime thriller interspersed with drastic splatter effects that quite consistently spells out its deep black scenario, describing a world as misanthropic as it is radically bleak, devoid of morals and direction.”

Encyclopedia of International Film[2]

Tattoo, on the other hand, tends towards the hardcore version of Anatomy, a monochrome, hopeless and uncompromising nightmare with no blonde Gretchen and no light at the end of the tunnel, a dark, disturbing night without tomorrow. With this debut, Robert Schwentke may have set the bar unusually high for his next film.”

Johannes Pietsch,[3]

“Like a cross between The Silence of the Lambs and Seven, Tattoo comes along. Dark, mysterious and at first inexplicable in its motives. However, the “German counterpart” actually manages in any scene to build up the tension of the Hollywood role models. In addition, the “disgust factor” is set a bit high here, so you’ll look at it and rather look away. And so the film then also runs after a good half hour in the sand – or in the darkness… Too bad actually, because good approaches are present…”

Frank Ehrlacher,[4]


  • 2002: Nomination for Golden Camera
  • 2002: Grand Prize of European Fantasy Film in Silver at the Sweden Fantastic Film Festival
  • 2003: International Fantasy Film Award at Fantasporto

Web links

  • Tattoo in the Internet Movie Database (english)
  • Tattoo at

Individual references

  1. Release certificate for Tattoo. Voluntary Self-Regulation of the Film Industry, February 2003 (PDF; review number: 89 892 V).
  2. Tattoo in the Encyclopedia of International Film
  3. Review on
  4. Criticism on