The German thriller Tattoo seems to announce its exploitative intentions early and emphatically, by throwing a naked and mutilated woman, a fatal traffic accident, and a massive explosion on the screen, all within the first few minutes. But the opening scene is apparently just writer-director Robert Schwentke's way of making sure everyone's paying attention before he launches into the gruesomely literal meat of his atmospheric police procedural about a series of tattoo-related murders. A club habitué and sometime drug user, rookie cop August Diehl puts minimal effort into scraping through at Berlin's police academy, and upon graduation, he gladly accepts a minimal-responsibility desk job. But a grim old maverick (Christian Redl) pulls strings to have Diehl assigned to the homicide division, apparently hoping the latter's raver pals can point the way to Redl's runaway daughter. Before that plan can pan out, both policemen become involved in the case of an apparent serial killer who cuts the tattoos from his victims' living bodies. Repulsed, Diehl attempts to escape Redl's stewardship, but he's lured back by an apparent desire for justice, as well as a growing obsession with Nadeshda Brennicke, an art dealer tangentially involved in the case. Schwentke, a television writer making his cinematic debut, relies once too often on raw coincidence to drive an otherwise passably tight and twisty noir plot, and his characters begin as depthless clichés. But over the course of the film, Diehl, at least, takes on a life of his own. It's never clear why he wanted both to be a policeman and to stay as far as possible from crime and hard work, but his gradual progression from sulky, cornered blackmail victim to rattled rookie to determined do-gooder gives Tattoo a human touch to balance out its prurient wallowing. And Diehl–who looks and sometimes acts like a junior Christopher Walken–gives believable life to that touch, as does the rest of the capable cast. Schwentke was likely influenced by The Silence Of The Lambs and David Fincher's Seven; from the character tropes to the visceral crimes to the lightless interiors and rain-drenched, near-lightless exteriors, Tattoo bathes in Seven's unsettling, grimy, claustrophobic vibe. Schwentke does make subtler use of music than Fincher (Tattoo's minimalist soundtrack whispers where Seven's throbbed), but there's nothing subtle about his relentless use of the twin hallmarks of the exploitation film: graphic gore and naked bodies. Seven managed a tricky balancing act between arthouse style and slaughterhouse splatter, while Tattoo veers too far toward the latter. But unlike so many Seven followers, it makes its missteps memorably, and offers a variety of stylistic rewards by way of compensation.