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Total Crap85.71%

1 review, 1 rating

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Iron Cross
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by Jay Seaver

"Sadly, the most interesting things about it are all off-screen."
1 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2010 BOSTON FILM FESTIVAL: Under normal circumstances, "Iron Cross" would probably go direct to video (or maybe cable) without anybody paying attention; it's a bad movie but not egregiously or hilariously so. This one, however, was not only involved in a bizarre series of events involving an awards screening series, a pulled review, and a lawsuit, but also happens to be the last movie that star Roy Scheider made. It's thus an object of curiosity to fans of a good actor and bad blood.

Retired New York cop Joseph (Roy Scheider) is flying to Nuremberg for the first time in decades to see his son Ronnie (Scott Cohen), an actor who lives and works there. It's his first time meeting his daughter-in-law Anna (Calita Rainford) and grandson. He's been away a long time, and barely by now speaks the language, even though he grew up German; as a teenager (Alexander Newton), he barely escaped being rounded up by the Nazis because he was sneaking out to see his gentile neighbor Kashka (Sarah Bolger). Now, he's certain that Ronnie's neighbor, an elderly man by the name of Shrager (Helmut Berger), is the man who killed his family - but as Ronnie points out, Joseph tends to think that every old German is a Nazi. Joseph is undeterred, and his snooping actually leads somewhere.

In addition to being the father of one of the stars, Joshua Newton writes, directs, produces, and edits the film, and it's difficult to think of any job that he does particularly well (producing, I guess - the film got made and doesn't look like any corners were obviously cut). In some ways, the writing is particularly frustrating; he starts from a solid starting point (wondering what his own Holocaust-survivor father would do if confronted with the men who murdered his family), and beyond that, there's a vein of potentially interesting material to mine from how Joseph's relationship with Ronnie parallels that with his own father. Unfortunately, he spends a lot more time concentrating on the mechanics of the plot (which are often ludicrous) than these relationships. Of course, he also writes terrible dialog, so seeing them try to connect might just make things worse.

Even with what potential the story has, the elder Newton doesn't do well in putting it together. Editing is often a crucial part of the filmmaking process but also tends to be fairly invisible, but this is a rare movie which actually made me stop and think "that's some bad editing". The movie opens with a long, uninteresting shot out Joseph's window as he flies to Germany, and is full of bad transitions: The jumps between "now" (specified as "the turn of the twenty-first century", so probably 1999-2001) and sixty-odd years earlier feel random, especially early on, and it's often hard to tell just how much time has passed between scenes at other times. There are a number of details which don't get fleshed out enough to allow their associated storylines to reach their potential but take up enough time to make the movie drag.

He also has a hard time getting his cast on the same page. Roy Scheider isn't doing his best work, but Joseph's paranoid-seeming ranting would work a lot better if Calita Rainford and Scott Cohen put a different level of emotion into their responses. The trio constantly seems to be just missing how actual people would react to each other, with Cohen particularly flat. It makes the finale fizzle terribly, because it depends on rapport and connection between Joseph and Ronnie that just has not been established. The younger Newton is not bad in the flashbacks, but there's not much to connect him to Scheider - they don't look entirely dissimilar, although it's rather amusing that Joseph's accent is American when speaking English in the present day and English when speaking "German" in flashbacks.

As bad as it sounds, it's actually worse; it's only moderately bad until the very end, when it just pulls its finale out of nowhere. It's inept, and only made sadder by the realization that it's the last time we'll see Scheider on screen.

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originally posted: 10/05/10 12:11:15
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Boston Film Festival For more in the 2010 Boston Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/12/10 Jen Arthur I saw it and its really good. The accent thing doesnt bother me - its better than valykerie 4 stars
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Directed by
  Joshua Newton

Written by
  Joshua Newton

  Roy Scheider
  Scott Cohen
  Alexander Newton
  Calita Rainford
  Helmut Berger

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