Policeman ★★½

Muscle preparation
Sacrificing one for all.
Class revolution
Prepared for weeks
Shortened in seconds.

Some of the same formal qualities that made the shots of Lapid's 2nd feature, The Kindergarten Teacher, which I saw at Cannes, an exciting approach to formalism that didn't stay trenchant in one type of shot. One of the best aspects of his new feature, I remarked, was that it was nice to see an Israeli film on the festival circuit that had no interest in addressing Palestine. Policeman also wants to forget about Palestine, but more didactically, it takes material that could be about the Jewish-Arab tensions and turns it into a domestic thriller. This is fine at first – the opening act following the casual lives of a group of strong-armed domestic security forces is thrilling. Not just for their male comradery dynamics but the way they let their training seep into their daily lives – seen in the second scene as the protagonist prepares the muscles of his wife for birth. This material is at once relaxed in terms of what they do – have a BBQ, go for a beer – but always investigating how much these men seem divorced from a sense of reality.

Sadly, this all goes to utter disappointment when the film violently shifts to a group of teenage intellectuals committed to revolution, all from middle-to-upper class families who have no business beginning the stages of revolution. It’s not that this material has been done before better (notably Assayas’s recent Apres Mai), but Lapid develops these characters under the most broad lines possible – sucking the air of any interesting or strange dynamics that could develop. The final salvo then, doesn’t do much to make these characters more interesting (they’re in over their head! Who saw that coming [everyone in the audience raises their hands]). The return of the troop is thus a relieving gesture – their weird line between playful relaxation before carrying out what seems like a dangerous mission and their utter anticipation (practicing with “gernades”) develops a unique cop mentality that American films can’t necessarily get at because of the stakes of how Israeli police culture works. But that Lapid ends his film with the most banal shot-counter shot possible, shows where his real interests lie.