Israeli director Eytan Fox’s Walk on Water is the story of a professional assassin working for the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, who slowly cracks under the pressures of his job. Not nearly as dramatic as that might suggest, the film is leisurely paced, flirts with improbability in pursuit of a humanistic agenda, and ends up as a character study with not quite enough depth of character.
The movie begins crisply enough with the Mossad agent Eyal (Lior Ashkenazi) using lethal injection to quickly dispatch some evildoer in broad daylight. The target is out walking with his wife and son when Eyal strikes; the agent’s impending moral crisis is foreshadowed as he stares into the young boy’s tearful face. This is no job for softies, and things are made worse when Eyal’s wife commits suicide and leaves behind a note that says she’s tired of all the killing.
Eyal’s next assignment is to exterminate a Nazi war criminal who lives (just barely — he’s in his 90s and ailing) in Germany. He approaches the job with the eagerness of a man who doesn’t want to pause long enough to reassess his life; but he’s somewhat disappointed when he finds that he must first spend some time befriending the ex-Nazi’s two grown grandchildren living in Israel. Posing as a tour guide, Eyal shows the siblings, Axel and Pia, the usual tourist attractions while hoping to learn something about their war criminal grandfather — but Axel thinks the old guy is already dead and Pia, if she knows different, is silent.
The developing relationship between the three is the central portion of the film, and while all the actors are adequate, it still has a meandering feel; having been promised a Nazi war criminal, we’re waiting for things to start happening. Apparently Axel, who’s gay, and Pia, who’s just a nice person, have some salutary effect on Eyal’s troubled state of mind. When events move to Germany, the well-being of his soul becomes the issue, rather than the redundant death of some half-dead Nazi.
Although worth seeing for Ashkenazi’s performance — the guy has charisma to burn — the film drags a little, and despite good intentions, still doesn’t quite convince.
In English, German and Hebrew, with English subtitles. Showing at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111).
Richard C. Walls writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.