Nadav Lapid’s politically charged film, Policeman, gives a viewer two movies for the price of one.
Lapid examines friendship and camaraderie in an elite anti-terrorist police squad in Israel. He also delves into the world of anarchists who strive to erase glaring economic inequalities in contemporary Israel.
At first glance, there is no apparent linkage between these separate and seemingly irreconcilable narratives. But as the film reaches a bloody climax, Lapid connects them.
Policeman will be presented by the Toronto Jewish Film Festival’s Chai Tea & A Movie series on Sunday, Nov. 25, at 4 p.m. at the Cineplex Odeon Sheppard Cinemas (4861 Yonge St.)
In terms of timing, Policeman is quite topical.
Since the summer of 2011, Israeli society has been convulsed by social protests over unemployment, the high cost of housing and the growing gap between rich and poor. The Israeli government has taken steps to ameliorate the situation, but much more remains to be done.
As Policeman opens, the camera pans on a group of cyclists negotiating a fairly steep hill in the desert. At the head of the pack is Yaron (Yiftach Klein), the macho leader of the anti-terrorist team.
Yaron and his fellow commandos, who are normally assigned to operations directed against Arab terrorists, enjoy their work and each other’s company. In the intervening scenes, they horse around, drink and socialize in touchy-feely situations.
One might even think they are gay, but nothing could be further from the truth. What they are, in fact, are superbly muscled, extremely fit alpha-male hunks.
The other component of Policeman is far removed from the nether world of these tough, rough Israeli commandos.
Lapid introduces us to this segment in a fleeting shot in which a bunch of nihilistic ne’er-do-wells trash a parked car for no discernible reason.
The scene then shifts to a luxury apartment in Tel Aviv, where several Israeli revolutionaries discuss their grievances and plans.
“It’s time for the poor to get rich and the rich to start dying,” exclaims Shira (Yaara Pelzig), a stick-thin, earnest anarchist who claims that Israel has degenerated into a master-slave state.
Shira and her companions barge into a wedding and kidnap some of the guests, including two “criminal billionaires” who appear to have acquired their fortunes on the backs of exploited employees.
Yaron and his fellow commandos are assigned the task of freeing them.
Policeman, in its exploration of simmering social issues in Israel, opens up troubling avenues of inquiry. But Lapid fouls his own nest by treating these important issues sensationally and superficially.
This could have been a thoughtful and searing film, but alas, it is not.