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Walk on Water (8/10)

by Tony Medley

Eyal (Lior Ashkenazi) is a Mossad assassin. Heís assigned to find Alfred Himmelman, a Nazi who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Jews during WWII. He does this by posing as a tour guide and getting close to Alfredís grandchildren, Pia, Caroline Peters), who is living in Israel, and Axel (Knut Berger), who is visiting Pia. Both are pie-in-the-sky idealists, much to Eyalís initial annoyance.

Director Eytan Fox has told the story with beautiful cinematography (Tobias Hochstein) of Israel and Germany. When Axel tries to walk on the Sea of Galilee, we can picture another time and another place when the Gospels tell us someone actually did walk on water. Itís made more fascinating by being at the exact location of the Biblical event. The other locations in the film, the house in which Axelís parents reside, the Berlin subway, the other Israeli locations, all add to the realistic atmosphere of the film.

The characters are finely drawn. Iím no expert on male sensuality, but Ashkenazi looks to me like a babe magnet if there ever was one. Even if the ladies donít like the story, they will like looking at this guy, and the film does include some shots of frontal male nudity.

But the story is well told. There are no phony car chases or people flying or larger than life vicious villains, which are the mainstays of American thrillers. This is almost just a slice of life in which Eyal is looking to get a lead on a villain from the past by using a pair of nice young people.

Eyal is going through traumas of his own. Heís not a psychopath, which is the way one usually pictures assassins. Rather, heís a thoughtful man who is working his way through some difficult emotions of his own.

Thereís one scene where Fox blew it. Eyal comes to the defense of some transvestites who are being attacked in the Berlin subway. He dispatches two of them displaying his talents for one on one combat. But then one of the thugs grabs Eyal by the throat and begins choking him. There is a simple self defense maneuver to break this choke hold that would be automatic for anyone as well trained as Eyal. But he doesnít use it. He just stands there, allowing himself to be choked until Axel saves him by jumping on the back of the attacker.

In this appropriately timed, 98-minute film, Fox takes on lots of controversial subjects, like tolerance for and acceptance of male homosexuality, revenge, and redemption. Regardless of how you feel about these things, this is an entertaining movie-cum-thriller that only falls apart with its simplistic, feel-good climax that is inconsistent with what came before, insults the intelligence of the audience, and depreciates the fine complexity of the film. (In English, Hebrew, and German with subtitles)

June 19, 2005