‘Rising High’ Review: From Rags to Riches, Without a Conscience

“Rising High” is a white collar crime movie with little pizazz and even less substance. Now on Netflix, the fast-paced German drama aspires to the wily satire of “The Wolf of Wall Street,” but the spectacle of greed that it showcases is neither as engrossing nor as demoralizing. It’s just plain old trashy.

The movie opens on a rowdy mansion party hosted by our millionaire hero, Viktor (David Kross). A baby-faced real estate mogul with a chip on his shoulder, he awakens, hung over, to a team of policemen arresting him for tax evasion, money laundering and fraud. He’s soon in prison, recounting the story of his rise to a visiting journalist. With this framework, the writer-director Cüneyt Kaya launches a wholly familiar rags-to-Corvettes tale in which Viktor cons, cheats and bribes his way from eager entrepreneurialism to the drugged-out, festive top.

“Rising High” slots cleanly into a genre of rich-dude movies that encourage us to revel in their characters’ grandeur. Cocaine and sparkly gems are abundant, and Kaya animates party scenes with quick cuts and pulsating dance beats to signal that Viktor’s lifestyle is super sexy. But the abundance gets repetitive, and Viktor’s glory is rendered with too much cliché to sustain a sense of allure. Simultaneously, Kaya tries to play the goofy antics of Viktor and his lowlife buddy Gerry (Frederick Lau) for genial laughs. Most of the time instead — as when Gerry threatens to fire a roomful of employees lest they break out into song — they inspire a weak grimace.

Such swaggering portraits of wealth often come with a question: Does it fetishize greed or condemn it? “Rising High” doesn’t achieve either. There is a startling amorality to its treatment of women, particularly the sex workers that Viktor, Gerry and Kaya’s camera frequently degrade. But other than its misogyny, the movie, stacked with try-hard hedonism, fails to provoke more than mild annoyance.

Rising High

Not rated. In German, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes.

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