Walk on Water
reviewed by Steve Sailer
The American Conservative, May 9, 2005
The entertaining Israeli comedy-drama "Walk on Water," in which a macho Mossad assassin must ingratiate himself with a gay German tourist to ferret out the whereabouts of the German's almost 100-year-old ex-Nazi grandfather and kill him, paradoxically calls to mind the remarkably small impact Israelis have on popular culture.
Although Israel is always in the headlines, Israelis almost never make news in the entertainment pages. The country is so short on globally recognized celebrities that Israelis sometime brag to foreigners that Gene Simmons, the lizard-tongued bass player for 70s trash-rock band Kiss, lived in Haifa from 1949 to 1958.
The paltry performance of Israel's five million Jews in the celebrity industry in which their six million American cousins do so well, partly reflects the limitations of speaking a unique national language, although many Israelis speak other tongues as well. "Walk on Water," for example, is mostly in English because the Mossad agent hides his ability to speak German, which he learned from his concentration camp survivor mother, so he can eavesdrop on the German's conversations with his family.
More fundamentally, as Berkeley historian Yuri Slezkine detailed in his brilliant 2004 book The Jewish Century, the founding Zionists always intended the Jewish State to be as un-Jewish in jobs as possible. While the modern economy has slowly made the rest of the world more like Jews -- "urban, mobile, literate, articulate, intellectually intricate, physically fastidious, and occupationally flexible," in Slezkine's words -- the early Israelis strove to become more like the warriors and farmers who then predominated among other peoples.
These days, though, filmmaking expertise is so widespread that competently made movies can come from anywhere, even Israel. The key requirement is an interesting script, which is more likely to be found in a low-budget import than in a Hollywood movie where the typical nine-figure investment in production and marketing requires a screenplay dumbed down to the globalist common denominator.
"Walk on Water" is powered by Israeli actor Lior Ashkenazi's star-making performance as the callous hitman. In a compelling opening scene in Istanbul, where he poisons a Hamas leader vacationing with his family, Ashkenazi displays the same cold charisma as his near-double, American actor Liev Schreiber, delivered in the spy movies "The Sum of All Fears" and "The Manchurian Candidate."
When he returns to Tel Aviv and finds that his beautiful wife has killed herself, he reacts so stoically that his worried bosses give him a frustratingly cushy assignment. He must go undercover as a tour guide showing a naive, vaguely spiritual young German around the Sea of Galilee so he can find out where in Argentina the visitor's grandfather has been holed up for the last 60 years.
While the American media treat Nazi-hunting as a self-evidently essential task, the Mossad agent sees tracking a nonagenarian Nazi as a waste of time when he could be killing Arabs instead. Moreover, his German client, a gangly, goofy, good-hearted boy-man -- a less handsome Ashton Kutcher or an unathletic Bill Walton -- drives the cynical Sabra nuts.
There's also an amusing altercation with an Arab shopkeeper that hints at the trouble multiculturalism generates as Israelis, who might be the brusquest people on Earth, rub up against etiquette-revering Arabs, who assume any rudeness is an intentional insult that honor demands must be avenged.
Unfortunately, director Eytan Fox and screenwriter Gal Uchovsky indulge in the usual insincerities of out-of-the-closet gay filmmakers. Isn't it odd that male homosexuals in the movie business were often more honest in the past when they had to sublimate their sexuality?
Although they claim their movie critiques Israel's tradition of machismo, they are obviously infatuated with their Hebrew-speaking he-man.
Moreover, as is common among politicized homosexual filmmakers worried about "validating stereotypes," they've stripped their gay character of all gay characteristics. This sloppily dressed, shambling quasi-hippie wouldn't set off anybody's gaydar.
Finally, making the German a putative homosexual leeches the intended irony from the movie. The point of "Walk on Water" is supposed to be the Israeli's eventual realization that the German, despite being the grandson of a mass murderer, is a better human being than he is, who uses his ancestors' victimization to justify his homicides. But if the German really is gay, then the motivation for his kindness toward the madly attractive Mossad man appears less than pure-hearted. "Walk on Water" would have worked better as a straight odd couple buddy movie.
Unrated, but would be a soft R.
To read my latest film
to The American Conservative