POLICEMAN (Ha-shoter) had all the potential of being a great, emotional film.

Up until the midway point of the film, I was totally grossed in the story of 5 Israeli anti-terrorist policemen, who are facing charges of killing innocent civilans.  Collectively, they agree that one of their colleagues (for reasons which are revealed in the film) will become the scapegoat for the charges.

What an intriguing premise.  But, unfortunately, POLICEMAN becomes too smart for its own good.  It introduces a second storyline, midway through the film, that forces a momentum shift from which it never recovers.

Up until then the film simmers with a sense of bravado and masculinity, as each of the policemen jostle their way for supremacy when in each other’s company.  Their bond for each other is unbreakable.  Traces of homo-erotism is found in every scene.

But director Nadav Lapid, who also wrote the screenplay, should have either introduced his second storyline concurrently at the start of the film, or dismiss it entirely.  Perhaps he felt that POLICEMAN couldn’t sustain the one narrative. Certainly at the halfway point the film needed to begin moving towards its conclusion.   The final thirty minutes of the film feel rushed, and short on answers, particular for a major plot point.

If only the film stayed the course, allowing the characters to collide and the potential crossroads to appear, then I might have been talking to you about one of the best films of this year.

Policeman won the Best Screenplay award at the 2011 Jerusalem Film Festival, and was nominated in that category at the Israeli Film Academy Awards.   It screens at the Sydney Film Festival in 2012.

Score:  2.5 / 5

– Rhett Bartlett