Amsterdam Vice

Amsterdam Vice

I will soon have a review for you of Dirty Lines, the new Dutch Netflix series about the beginning of the phone-sex industry in late 1980s Amsterdam. The first episode looked good. It reminded me of Sex Education.

If you’re looking for something closer to The Deuce, the 2017-19 American series about the sex industry in 1970s and 80s New York starring James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal, I recommend Amsterdam Vice.

The name of both a movie and one-season drama series, which repurposed the movie as pilot, it was released in the Netherlands as Baantjer: Het Begin. It is a prequel to the long-running Dutch police procedural Baantjer, which in turn was based on the novels by former cop Albert Cornelis Baantjer. You don’t need to be familiar with either, though, to enjoy Amsterdam Vice. (I never watched the original Baantjer, nor did I read the books.)

Set in 1980, on the eve of Queen Beatrix’s coronation, the movie introduces Waldemar Torenstra as rookie cop Jurre de Cock and Tygo Gernandt as his hardened partner Tonnie Montijn. The two stumble on what appears to be a plot against the new queen when they discover a corpse floating in Amsterdam’s canals.

1980 was the height of the heroin epidemic in Amsterdam and a time when the once-idealistic squatters’ movement had morphed into something closer to a far-left terrorist organization. They really did stage massive demonstrations against the coronation, which led to altercations with police. Naturally De Cock and Montijn suspect the squatters of planning something worse. Along the way, we get many neon-lit scenes in Amsterdam’s seedy Red Light District and occasional news flashes from the period, giving the whole an authentic feel.

The series picks up where the movie left off. It dives deeper into the 1980s crime wave in Amsterdam as well as Operation Gladio, the stay-behind NATO effort to prepare for a possible Soviet invasion of Western Europe. I won’t spoil the plot by telling you how they are connected, but I’m sure the Cold War historians among you will have a suspicion.

Part of the action takes place in Flanders, probably to give the series a larger potential release and to benefit from Belgian tax breaks. Charlotte Vandermeersch stars as a NATO agent and Yannick Jozefzoon joins the cast Andy Ruiter, a Dutch cop of Surinamese descent.

The series doesn’t quite live up to the quality of the movie, but if you enjoyed the film you’ll want to give the series a chance. The dialogue is sometimes a little wooden, but the story is well done.

If you speak Dutch, you may also be interested in the documentary Andere Tijden made about Bureau Warmoesstraat, a small police station in the middle of the Red Light District, in the 1970s and 80s. You can watch part 1 and part 2 on their website.

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