For a re­view of “Op­er­a­tion Fi­nale,”

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The per­fume of pres­tige and the prom­ise of white- knuckle thrills an­nounce the ar­rival of “Op­er­a­tion Fi­nale” be­fore the movie has even be­gun. Two big stars — Os­car­win­ner Ben Kings­ley and Os­car Isaac — face off as fugi­tive Nazi Adolph Eich­mann and Mos­sad agent Peter Malkin, in the true story of the 1960 cap­ture of Eich­mann by a team of Is­raeli op­er­a­tives in Ar­gentina. It is there that Eich­mann, the mas­ter­mind be­hind the Nazis’ ex­ter­mi­na­tion poli­cies, has been se­cretly liv­ing for 10 years, un­der the alias Ri­cardo Kle­ment and the cover of a job in a Mercedes fac­tory out­side Buenos Aires. Code-named Op­er­a­tion Fi­nale, Malkin’s mis­sion was not an as­sas­si­na­tion, but an ex­trac­tion, from un­der the noses of Buenos Aires’ com­mu­nity of ex­pat Ger­man anti-Semites and their Ar­gen­tine sym­pa­thiz­ers. (“What must we make of the Jew?” asks a leader of the group at one gath­er­ing, early in the film. “Soap!” shout his fol­low­ers, who are com­fort­able enough not to hide their vir­u­lent big­otry.) Sounds dra­matic, no? And for a while, it is. Open­ing with a short 1954 pro­logue that shows Malkin botch­ing an ear­lier as­sign­ment — to demon­strate that the char­ac­ter is in need of re­demp­tion — the film quickly jumps to the tense prepa­ra­tions for, and car­ry­ing-out of, Eich­mann’s cap­ture. But the hard part be­gins only af­ter Eich­mann has been re­moved to a safe house, where he must be held — al­though “babysat” is prob­a­bly a bet­ter word — un­til Malkin’s team can per­suade him to sign an af­fi­davit af­firm­ing his true iden­tity. This por­tion of the story — the bulk of the film — con­tains the real cat-and-mouse game, as Malkin and Eich­mann en­gage in a dance of du­el­ing in­tel­lects, with the two men de­bat­ing the na­ture of evil, jus­tice and truth it­self. Un­for­tu­nately, what­ever steam has been built up dur­ing the more com­pelling first act slowly dis­si­pates un­der the overly talky, on­the-nose con­clu­sion, de­spite some mod­est sus­pense ginned up as Ar­gen­tine au­thor­i­ties get close to dis­cov­er­ing the safe house. “Op­er­a­tion Fi­nale” has been called the think­ing man’s Nazi ret­ri­bu­tion movie, and that’s not in­ac­cu­rate. But in a screen­play (by Bri­tish writer Matthew Or­ton) that brings no new or pro­found in­sights into Eich­mann’s psy­che, the film’s cere­bral lean­ings make for a mostly limp and un-thrilling en­ter­prise — more late-night ar­gu­ment be­tween fresh­man phi­los­o­phy stu­dents than ei­ther thought ex­er­cise or ac­tion film. In­stead, the film by direc­tor Chris Weitz (“A Bet­ter Life”) feels du­ti­ful and utilitarian. It’s nei­ther great nor ter­ri­ble, nei­ther stylish nor un­sexy, but ex­ists in some ser­vice­able com­pro­mise be­tween both ex­tremes. As the Ger­man-born Malkin, Isaac is merely ad­e­quate in a role that gives him plenty of bag­gage, but he doesn’t go any­where with it. Malkin’s spotty rep­u­ta­tion as an agent, cou­pled with his lack of emo­tional clo­sure re­gard­ing his own fam­ily’s his­tory dur­ing the Holo­caust, seem de­signed to add com­plex­ity and depth to his char­ac­ter but don’t work. Kings­ley is more in­ter­est­ing. With its vil­lain, “Op­er­a­tion Fi­nale” tries — at times a bit too hard — to con­vey the pro­saic na­ture of Eich­mann’s crimes, al­low­ing the char­ac­ter plenty of mo­ments in which to ar­gue, as he says in one scene, that he was “merely a cog in a ma­chine chug­ging its way to Hell.” When Eich­mann is asked, in one of sev­eral in­ter­ro­ga­tion scenes, whether he was, in fact, the “ar­chi­tect of the ‘Fi­nal So­lu­tion,’ “Eich­mann at­tempts to con­vey ei­ther in­dif­fer­ence or hu­mor. “We loved nick­names,” he says with a shrug, adding, with­out ap­par­ent irony or a sense of re­morse, that he was mocked as the “lit­tle Jew” as a boy, a ref­er­ence to his dark com­plex­ion. The enig­matic, con­tra­dic­tory bad guy is al­ways in­her­ently provoca­tive. The film’s hero, on the other hand, needs all the help he can get. To that end, “Op­er­a­tion Fi­nale” changes the gen­der of one char­ac­ter - the Mos­sad doc­tor who ad­min­is­tered the pow­er­ful nar­cotic haloperi­dol to Eich­mann to in­ca­pac­i­tate him - from male to fe­male, cast­ing Mélanie Lau­rent as Malkin’s former lover (and the team’s med­i­cal ex­pert). This and other con­ces­sions to Hol­ly­wood, not his­tory, smack of cyn­i­cal cal­cu­la­tion. In the end, “Op­er­a­tion Fi­nale” misses its aim — to il­lu­mi­nate the ba­nal­ity of evil — by that much, as the TV spy Maxwell Smart used to say. In­stead, what it il­lus­trates is the film’s lack of faith in its source ma­te­rial. “Op­er­a­tion Fi­nale,” Metro Gold­wyn Mayer Pictures re­lease, is rated PG-13 for bru­tal­ity and adult themes. Run­ning time: 118 min­utes.


Re­lease dates shouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily be a met­ric for eval­u­at­ing films, and yet, some­times it’s the best way to con­tex­tu­al­ize what’s go­ing on with a movie. “Kin,” a dark and con­found­ing young adult thriller, writ­ten and di­rected by Jonathan and Josh Baker, co-writ­ten by Daniel Casey, is best de­scribed as a pro­to­typ­i­cal “Au­gust movie.” Not fit­ting into one genre or an­other, too dark to ap­peal to kids and too ju­ve­nile to draw adults, it’s seem­ingly been dumped in that no-man’s land be­tween block­buster and awards sea­son. “Kin” is based on a short film by the broth­ers Baker called “Bag Man.” It fol­lows a 14-year-old boy from Detroit, Eli (Myles Truitt, in his first fea­ture film role), as he goes on the lam with his adopted ex-con brother, Jimmy (Jack Reynor). Eli’s brought along a mys­te­ri­ous gun, a large, box-shaped weapon he picked up in an aban­doned build­ing while scrap­ping to make ex­tra money. In pur­suit is Tay­lor (James Franco), a psy­cho­pathic drug dealer out for vengeance af­ter a rob­bery leaves both his brother Dutch (Gavin Fox) and Eli and Jimmy’s fa­ther Hal (Den­nis Quaid) dead. Franco’s Tay­lor is es­sen­tially his char­ac­ter Alien from “Spring Break­ers” with sev­eral hard years on him, corn­rows chopped into a ratty mul­let, sport­ing a moth-eaten sweater and many mis­guided tat­toos, sig­ni­fy­ing his im­pul­sive and reck­less na­ture. Eli and Jimmy, en route to Lake Ta­hoe, one of their dead mother’s fa­vorite places, are also be­ing fol­lowed by a mys­te­ri­ous pair of fu­tur­is­tic sol­diers on a mis­sion to re­pos­sess the weapon. Eli dis­cov­ers how use­ful the “ray gun” can be when they find them­selves in a brawl at a Mid­west­ern strip club. The gun shoots blasts that can va­por­ize any­thing. Af­ter es­cap­ing evil club owner Lee (Ro­mano Orzari), dancer Milly (Zoë Kravitz) joins the broth­ers on the run. “Kin” is a movie about the bond be­tween broth­ers, whether bi­o­log­i­cal or forged in a blended fam­ily. Al­though the cir­cum­stances of Jimmy and Eli’s road trip aren’t ideal, Jimmy’s happy for the time he gets to spend with his lit­tle brother, on the cusp of man­hood, af­ter so many years in jail. But the re­union is con­trasted with Tay­lor’s rage and grief at the loss of his own brother. That ex­plodes into a tsunami of blood and death as he and his posse storm the Ne­vada po­lice sta­tion where Eli and Jimmy have been de­tained, while lib­er­ally, graph­i­cally mur­der­ing many po­lice of­fi­cers. The vi­o­lence in the film’s third act is shock­ing, and it strains both the sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief and the laugh­able, hon­estly shame­ful PG-13 rat­ing. Once again, “Kin” proves to not be one thing or the other, de­fy­ing any clear genre or de­mo­graphic bound­aries. It’s not a block­buster or a heroic young adult tale (though a last-minute but­ton in­di­cates at least the film thinks it is). It’s just a dev­as­tat­ingly sad and ter­ri­ble story about two broth­ers who make bad choices, suf­fer the con­se­quences and lose the last shreds of fam­ily they have left. No amount of 11th hour twists, re­veals or big­ger ideas can shake that in­escapable feel­ing of dread and sor­row. “Kin,” a Lionsgate re­lease, is rated PG-13 for gun vi­o­lence and in­tense ac­tion, sug­ges­tive ma­te­rial, lan­guage, the­matic el­e­ments and drink­ing. Run­ning time: 102 min­utes.


The new Lionsgate re­lease “Kin” stars, from left, Zoe Kravitz, Jack Reynor and Myles Truitt.

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