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Israel-Palestine conflict hits the gay bar scene

2.5 out of 4 stars

Country
USA
Language
English

Walk on Water

**½

Directed by Eytan Fox

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Written by Gal Uchovsky

Starring Lior Ashkenazi, Knut Berger

Classification: PG

A man involuntarily smiles at a boy aboard an Istanbul ferry. Without turning, the boy's father scolds his child for engaging a stranger. Chastened, the stranger retires to a washroom with his drug works. Emerging wearing sunglasses, he passes the family just beyond the dock, removes the needle from his coat and drives the spike into the father's leg.

As the man (a Hamas terrorist, it turns out) crumples dead to the ground, his killer hurries past the grieving family. Moments later the film swings into a club mix of the old Buffalo Springfield protest song, For What It's Worth. ("There's something happening here/What it is ain't exactly clear . . .")

What's happening in Walk on Water is intriguing if perhaps not always clear. Our killer is a Mossad assassin dedicated to the elimination of the enemies of Israel. No man was better designed for murder. Eyal (Lior Ashkenazi) has no tear ducts. Target practice and listening to "the Boss," Bruce Springsteen would seem to be his only hobbies.

All of which makes his next target so difficult. For now the macho Mossad agent is assigned to pose as a Tel Aviv tour guide for a gay, pro-Palestine Berliner and his sister, or as Eyal calls them, "the pseudo-liberal Hansel and Gretel." The Boss -- not Bruce, but Menachem (Gideon Shemer), his Mossad superior -- wants Eyal to gain the Germans' confidence to learn more about their grandfather, Alfred Himmelman, a Nazi war criminal who may still be alive. "I want to get [Himmelman]before God does," is how Menachem puts it.

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Eyal finds it difficult to be around the grandson, who is brave and self-assured enough (after a few beers) to camp his way through both the male and female parts of the 1968 hit Cinderella Rockefeller at a Kibbutz talent show. ("I love your touch." "Thanks very much." "I love your eyes." "That's very nice . . .") More than anything, Eyal is disturbed by young Axel's openness to pleasure and experience -- his easy enjoyment of the modern world.

When Axel picks up a waiter and yanks everybody away to a gay bar, the Mossad agent can barely control his anger. But then there comes word that Alfred Himmelman may still be alive! Will the agent be able to overcome his prejudices to do his duty? Or will his contempt of Axel turn into something else?

Directed by New York-born Israeli filmmaker, Eytan Fox ( Yossi & Jagger), Walk on Water is as brave as Axel at exploring sexual and ideological boundaries. And the cast is uniformly good. Knut Berger, in particular, is credible and attractive as the playful tourist who succeeds in discovering Eyal's true nature.

But the film's powerhouse, set-in-Berlin climax, and sunny epilogue seem contrived. The Israeli film works best in isolated spots early on as a series of intriguing character studies. Upon reaching to become a lesson to the world, however, Walk on Water goes off the deep end.

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