A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
"Policeman," by debuting Israeli director Nadav Lapid, is a curiously bifurcated film. It starts out telling the story of one group of characters, the policemen suggested by the title. Then, about halfway through, it abruptly shifts to focus on another group, a small band of left-wing radicals. Naturally, the two stories converge toward the narrative’s end, but that doesn’t overcome the sense that the film suffers from a deeper bifurcation: a split between actually saying something about the tricky political and cultural issues it treats, and appearing to do so while shying away from that task’s toughest challenges.
The policemen depicted in the film’s first part are not ordinary cops but a five-man team in the Israeli Defense Ministry’s elite Anti-Terrorism Unit. In other words, they’re assigned not to police regular Israelis but to control Palestinians (a.k.a. terrorists), often by lethal means. The film doesn’t start out explaining this, or showing the men in action; rather it stresses their macho camaraderie with scenes of them bicycling across the desert and engaging in horse play, playful wrestling matches and endless back-slapping at a Tel Aviv barbeque.
The leader of this group, Yaron (Yiftach Klein), is described as an "alpha male" in the press notes, and the film displays an almost-lipsmacking avidity in conveying his masculine hotness. In one early scene, he puts an upbeat tune on the stereo and dances seductively in his short-shorts for his wife, and us, as if to make sure we haven’t failed to notice his sexy build. But Yaron’s also a guy facing challenges on several fronts.
At home, his wife is in the final stages of pregnancy. While this carries both excited optimism and dramatic anticipation (they know the child will be a girl), it also means he’s not getting laid. At a seaside restaurant, he chats up a pretty waitress and finally asks her age. She says she’s 15. Ulp. Will he or won’t he?