Sun 31 Mar 2013
Violent thrillers are yet a rather unexplored territory for the big screen Israeli cinema, and I really wonder why. The Israeli reality even if we put aside the political conflict is quite violent at least if one follows the news. While thrillers and detective stories made their way to the TV series, there are very few productions of the genres on big screens. Kirot (which means Walls, although the English title is The Assassin Next Door) is already four years old, and is one of the rare productions in the genre. It is almost a good one, but …
There was no problem for the script writers to extract the medium and the characters that populate the movie. Local mafia is said to be in control of the sex industry, and many of the characters that populate it are of Russian origin, and the sex workers are also coming in numbers from the less fortunate countries of the former Soviet Union. So a former prostitute forced by the Russian mafia to become a killer does not seem to be an extraordinary story. Even less is exceptional the case of the young woman victim of domestic violence, with simple and naive dreams that are never to be fulfilled. These two characters acted by Olga Kurylenko and local rock star Ninette Tayeb are naturally drawn to each other by a shared record of violence and social injustice, by a lack of hope that makes their fate almost unavoidable. The best scenes of the film are the ones where the two get to know each other wining over the distrust and the differences in language and background, starting to trust, then become friends and eventually share fate. The rather non-professional acting backgrounds of both actresses help, bringing freshness, sincerity and emotion in the building relation between the two.
The story around is quite expected, and not badly written with the exception of the final which is unrealistic from many respects. The combination of woman killer, women in distress helping each other against violence, mafia movies, all in an Israeli margin-of-the-society environment works well because if does not take over the film, while keeping the interest of the viewers arise and balancing the story so that it does not become too melodramatic. Director Danny Lerner at his second film (he did not make any other film since then) shows quite a talent in directing actors, setting the camera at the right places, building a credible environment an Israeli can recognize. But here is the problem – there was enough good material in the film to make a more blunt social statement, or use some more striking expressive means. Danny Lerner did not undertake this challenge. Daring more and pushing the limits would have helped the film step ahead of the line. It is a decent film, a decent directorial job, and so it risks to be remembered (if at all) – decent, but not more.