"The Engineer" plays like the Wish version of "Munich," but that's not an entirely bad thing.
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“The Engineer” (available in select theaters and on VOD beginning Friday, Aug. 18) kinda feels like the Wish version of Steven Spielberg’s underrated 2005 offering “Munich.” That’s not to say it’s good nor bad – it’s very much somewhere in between skewing more to the former.
Emile Hirsch stars as Etan, an American-born Israeli Jew who was working as an intelligence officer prior to being sidelined for beating the brakes off of a terror suspect. His wife Fanni (Yarden Toussia-Cohen) doesn’t want him to return to work after they discarded him so easily in spite of everything he did for them. (I’m uncertain if Etan works for Mossad or Shin Bet, but both figure prominently into the action.)
Etan is compelled to return to work in order to bust or kill Yahya Ayyash (Adam Haloon) aka “The Engineer,” who’s had a hand in building bombs and training recruits for Hamas suicide bombings including a recent, bus-based one that killed the daughter (May Almakaies) of a now-vengeful U.S. senator (Robert Davi). The senator has hired an ex-Mossad agent (Angel Bonanni) to aid in making his revenge a reality. Etan’s boss Yakov (Israeli-born Danny A. Abeckaser, who also produces and directs) tells him, “I need you, Israel needs you.” Etan concurs and is immediately on the case.
The politics of “The Engineer” are somewhat problematic to me as it’s undoubtedly pro-assassination and pro-torture, but I can also see the argument being made that extreme times (i.e. Israel in the mid-1990s) call for extreme measures. The script by Kosta Kondilopoulos isn’t action-packed nor is it super-emotional, but it’s interestingly matter of fact and has a few, fleeting moments of suspense.
I did respond to the performances of Hirsch and Bonanni (who’s really a co-lead). They aren’t Eric Bana and Daniel Craig in “Munich” good, but the gap is probably closer than you’d expect. Less capable is whomever subtitled the movie. In one instance “where” is substituted with “were.” In another “motherf*cker” is presented as two words. Motherf*cker is one word, motherf*cker!
I liked “The Engineer” well enough that I’m curious to check out Abeckaser, Kondilopoulos, Hirsch and Davi’s other film currently in release “Inside Man,” which opened in select theaters and on VOD last Friday, Aug. 11. If the looser elements of this political action-thriller were tightened up just a bit, they could very well have an engaging and entertaining mob movie on their hands.