It’s no surprise that an Israeli film named “Wounded Land” revolves around a terrorist bombing, but writer-director Erez Tadmor toys with expectations throughout the movie.
That shift begins with the setting in Haifa instead of the more common terrorist targets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv or the front lines of the conflict in the West Bank. More important, the film begins as a story of police corruption and the struggle of one officer, Kobi Amar (played by Roy Assaf), to balance his professional responsibility and his loyalty to his commander and mentor, Neumann, who personifies excess and abuse of power.
Even after a would-be suicide bomber forces the police to stop fretting about corruption, “Wounded Land” doesn’t follow the standard path. We don’t see the bombing or get a clear idea of its toll, although the devastation is extensive.
Instead, the film proceeds in two directions. At the hospital — a dirty, broken-down center, not a gleaming example of Israeli medical excellence — anger at the surviving bomber and frustration at delays in treatment unleash anti-Arab sentiments against the medical staff. Meanwhile, Kobi and Neumann stop caring about anything except the fate of their missing sons.
The acting is good, but the plot is so intense that it leaves little room for the nuance required for a great performance. The exception is Dvir Benedek as Neumann, whose hospital room confrontation with the terrorist is the kind of scene that wins awards.
Overall, Tadmor delivers a gritty, dark portrayal of police life that deserves a place among American films ranging from “Serpico” to “End of Watch,” with the addition of a terrorist story that could as easily have been set these days in Istanbul, Paris, Brussels or Berlin.
Perhaps that’s the most unexpected revelation of “Wounded Land”: Even as Israel’s filmmaking has reached a world-class level, many of its stories have become universal rather.