NYFF Review: Policeman


[For the next few weeks, Flixist will be covering the 2011 New York Film Festival. We’ll be bringing you reviews, interviews, and whatever awesome things we can scrape from the Lincoln Center carpeting, so make sure to come back and check out all the festival has to offer here.]

Policeman is the worst movie I have seen in a very long time. In fact, it’s one of the worst movies I’ve seen in my life. If you continue reading this review, do so with the knowledge that I really have nothing nice to say about the film. There weren’t even images given to the press, so you’ll have nothing to look at. Go on. See a good movie and get the mere thought of this one out of your head. Still here? Okay. I warned you.

Director: Nadav Lapid
Country: Israel

Policeman tells the story of two groups of people: a group of “fighter policemen” and a group of young “terrorists.” The first half of the film focuses solely on the former, and the second half (until the end) features only the latter. The policemen are just a group of policemen. One of them has some kind of cancer that may or may not be life-threatening, and they’re all under investigation for killing innocents during an investigation that you never see (remember this, because I will come back to it). The group of kids who make up the terrorists are a bunch of truly obnoxious teenagers who you never even come close to relating to. The point they’re trying to get across (repeated ad nauseam throughout their half of the film) is that “The poor need to get rich and the rich need to start dying.” They keep talking about this plan that they have and that it will be significant or whatever. Then the plan happens, and the films verges on being interesting for just a few minutes but never makes it there. Also, the police come back and kill them all.

With the knowledge that all of the terrorist kids are killed, I think the film’s main problem becomes incredibly clear: it is an absolute waste of time. For far too long the audience is subjected to inane dribble from the self-important kids, and it is never clear what they actually want or are doing with anything. For example, the only girl in the group (let’s call her Blondie), goes to a club (I don’t know why), and watches the performance (which is absolutely horrendous). During the performance, a heavily-tattooed girl asks her if she’s a lesbian. Blondie says, “I don’t know,” and accepts an invitation to go on this girl’s motorcycle. Except it doesn’t happen. Blondie then goes to read her stupid soliloquy to some guy with a beard, who basically says “Right on” and then she calls him a poser. 

Why did that scene happen? It didn’t need to. In fact, it shouldn’t have. The only thing that scene does is make you hate being alive. It has no purpose in the plot, it gives no characterization whatsoever, it doesn’t make sense, and it is boring. And that’s what really gets to me. It is so goddamn boring. I can deal with stupid, irrelevant, nonsensical characters, but this is supposed to be a character drama (I think), which means that there’s nothing else to make up for it. Several scenes in the film are long takes of one of the policemen massaging his wife (who is very pregnant). That particular policeman (who we will call Lecher) is the main focus of the first half of the film. He seems like a nice guy, and I actually laughed a little bit when he made jokes and things at times, but a big part of his character is going around looking at little girls because he’s about to be a father and wants to look at little girls. 

Let’s come back to the violence. If nothing else, a film called Policeman should have some kind of epic shootout or something. It should have a payoff for the incredibly painful lead up to the final showdown between the police and terrorists. Well, the film can’t even provide that. Every single moment of violence is off screen or in blackout. Hell, before that final moment Lecher and some other guy practice their grenade throwing, promising something that never happens. The scenes where they talk about what happened when the innocents were killed are vague and annoying. They decide to place the blame on the dying Ariel (the only one whose name I remember), but they never actually say what happened that night. It would be a powerful juxtaposition to show, for example, that Ariel had nothing to do with it. Hell, it would be powerful to show that he did do it. Frankly, anything would have been more powerful than what they did. Which was nothing.

Much of the movie was spent trying to make a (very short) mental list of things I liked. One of them was the complete lack of non-diagetic sound. I thought it was a pretty cool choice. I didn’t know that it worked with the film, but I appreciated the commitment to it… until the final scene took place with a generic dramatic score in the background. And there went my one nice thing.

Maybe the acting was okay. I mean, there were a lot of characters, one of them must have been okay at least, but I don’t know, because the characters were so awful. It was impossible to connect with them on any level whatsoever. Especially the terrorists. At the end of the film, all of these “dramatic” things keep happening. Hold on… forgot to tell you what they did. They took three billionaires hostage. Yup, they made it boring. Don’t ask me how. One of the billionaires’ daughters follows them into the room (and they let her) and at various points Blondie makes her self-important speeches, including one where she tells the daughter “You don’t have a body, you have a dress… you don’t have a face, you have makeup.” Could it have been interesting and profound? I don’t know, I was laughing the whole time. And so was everybody else.

But even the laughably stupid moments were brief, always replaced by stupid, boring camerawork framing stupid, boring characters. Never see this film. Ever. In fact, if it somehow reaches our shores and you see it at on the shelf, break the disc in half. No one else should be subjected to it.