Israeli film ‘The Bouncer’ offers brains and brawn

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Dan Buffa, Special For The Jewish Light

It would take 10 men to defeat Ovadia (Moris Cohen), the strongest doorman in Tel Aviv. Revered by customers and beloved by his co-workers, he only wishes there was some way he could help his wife (Rotem Zissman-Cohen) get pregnant with their first child, something that has alluded the couple for five years.

But when a dangerous small-time gangster (a conniving Alon Dahan) offers him a way to make bigger money, albeit with vital demands, Ovadia finds a way out of financial hardship and a way into an underworld that he may not be able to punch his way out of.

Directed with aplomb by Meny Yaesh, “The Bouncer” offers a sophisticated action-drama entry for ChaiFlicks, the entertainment hub for Jewish and Israeli content, even if the ending may leave you wanting more than it offers. Cohen, who could stare a hole in any wall, is the soulful moral compass of this 2016 feature. The actor goes to many great emotional lengths in the film, showing us the tender side of a guy whose whole life starts to crack when a little opportunity shines through.

The movie’s greatest strength is uprooting your Hollywood-made expectations with deliberate plot twists that come off more realistic than most tough guy tales. Right when you expect mighty Ovadia to save the day and beat everyone to a pulp like the story teases, something else happens and the film grows from that.

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I also applauded the lighter, character-building moments, such as Dahan’s antagonist sharing a moment with his associate right before chaos descends, or the relationship between Ovadia and his boss and father figure, Mickey (Haim Zanati). Those scenes help later events pack a harder punch.

Speaking of the action, the thing people will most likely click on this movie for, the style and editing were inventive and visceral. There’s the slow-motion close-up before the fight in one sequence while another brawl finds the camera moving more erratically around the characters as the blows land. In one scene, we are taken around the car as a collection becomes a confession.

The unexpected isn’t afraid to land in the screenplay, which was also written by Yaesh. The filmmaker wishes to show us the price behind violence and how decisions carry consequences that stretch outside a human’s imagination. Without being flashy or pulling us in different directions, Yaesh tells a human story amid the types that the initial setup seems to promise.

There’s brains and brawn in “The Bouncer,” originally called “Our Father.” If you crave the fights yet care about the actions that follow them, this is a good selection for the weekend on ChaiFlicks.