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Joseph, a retired New York police officer, played by the late Roy Scheider, travels to Nuremberg to visit his son Ronnie years after turning his back on him for rejecting a promising career in the NYPD and marrying a local artist, Anna. No sooner does Joseph attempt to heal the rift with Ronnie, when he swears that living in the apartment above, under the false name of Shrager, is the now aging SS Commander who murdered his entire family in a Polish forest during WW2. With little hope of seeing him stand trial, Joseph talks Ronnie into exacting justice - and vengeance - and together they set out to kill him. Meanwhile, a mysterious woman, Gaby, has an agenda of her own. With flashbacks to the past, revealing the teenage love of Young Joseph for a heroic Polish girl, Kashka and his narrow escape from the massacre, the story reaches a gripping and unforgettable climax. Written by
It's difficult to be too critical of the movie because the production coincided with not only the death of the great Roy Schieder, but also the director's father (a holocaust survivor) upon which Schieder's character is based...but:
This is a simply poor piece of filmaking that is close to risible due to the decision to use the holocaust as a background to make a quasi-action pic. Based on a Q&A with the director and his son (who co-stars), it seems that the holocaust is simply another way for Newton to get his directing kicks: as he said, a project he thought up while waiting to direct a "divorce thriller." Rather than a serious investigation of what his father's experience meant, Newton takes it as reason to portray gratuitous violence and hone his camera skills. A set-up that could lead to a veritable graduate seminar of fascinating themes and conflicts is dispensed with in order to follow a ridiculous whodunit.
Poor editing, acting (with the exception of Schieder and, surprisingly, Newton's son) and an absurd plot are hallmarks of many films, but few manage to be offensive, cloying, hilariously melodramatic, painstakingly dull, vain, and just shootstormingly bad. And this is just in a twenty minute section in the middle of the movie. There's actually some kind of anti-brilliance on display here because things start out fairly okay, like a cheesy made-for-TV movie, but develop into "holy cow - am I really watching this?" mode about halfway through.
Sadly, the ineptitude isn't easily available for a Room-like mockery because of Schieder's passing, but there are some classic moments where it would be fun to imagine a packed theater laughing at all of this. Nazis rounding up houses full of people speaking with British accents, the worst storytelling neighbor in cinema history, a fall-out-of-your-seat lesson in compassion through an analogy with a bee, and a visual style that seems like Edgar Wright without the wink would make for some brilliant midnight watching. If you get a chance, find the DVD and skip to the barn scene, but otherwise ignore the obvious planted reviews above.
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