A breezy throwback to caper comedies of the 1960s and ‘70s, Kidon has a large cast, male and female eye candy, a twisty plot and a sense of fun. The tense, charged espionage world of today is especially suited to this kind of movie, and writer/director Emmanuel Naccache has pulled it off. There are times when the plot drags a bit, but I guarantee that some of the twists will surprise you, and others will make you laugh.
It’s a rare film made in Israel today that can be described by the adjectives “light” or “fun,” so it’s especially refreshing to see this film. Most Israeli comedies are too dumbed down to be enjoyable to anyone over 14, but the sophisticated Kidon (the name refers to an anti-terrorist division of the Mossad) will keep you on your toes, just to keep track of all the characters.
A few years ago, Naccache (along with Stephane Belaisch) made the comedy The Jerusalem Syndrome about, among other things, the search for a valuable shtreimel. After that film, the French-born Naccache was inspired to write Kidon after the assassination of a terrorist in Dubai in 2010, for which the Mossad was widely believed to have been responsible. You probably remember the news photos captured by security cameras at the hotel and in other spots in Dubai. Along with these photos came the realization that the rules of the game had changed: With social media and the Internet, no intelligence operation could ever be totally secret.
Kidon starts out with real news reports of that terrorist’s killing, but the first twist in the film is that the Mossad knows nothing about it. Sasson Gabbai and Amos Tamam play two of the main intelligence officers who are scrambling to figure out what to do. Raymonde Amsellem turns up as a no-nonsense police liaison.
Menashe Noy, Liran Levo and Haim Zinati are also at the table.
Then we see who is actually responsible. The film’s main focus is, wisely, on the very winning Daniel Levy (Tomer Sisley), a counterfeiter who is having an affair with the French ambassador’s wife (Elodie Hesme).
Then Daniel goes to the French ambassador (Hippolyte Girardot) to try to broker a deal to sell the terrorist’s computer to France.
In Daniel’s gang are Eric (Lionel Abelanski), who runs a brothel and makes counterfeit Viagra; a French hacker known as Facebook (Kev Adams); and, the movie’s big draw, at least in Israel, Einav, a young student played by supermodel Bar Refaeli. The terrorist (Shredi Jabarin) also makes a brief appearance.
So the gang plotted this killing in order to get hold of a $100 million laptop. And then it gets more complicated, with various Mossad officers, Russian diplomats and other characters trying to cash in.
As the story goes on, it gets less and less plausible but, most of the time, more fun. A few of the actors get so over the top that it’s a little grating, especially Shai Avivi as an eccentric Mossad bigwig (if we’ve learned anything from The Gatekeepers, it’s that top Mossad personnel are a pretty somber bunch).
Many people may be wondering whether this film will launch Bar Refaeli as an actress.
Her main task here is to look good, and she does that well. Her acting is neither more nor less wooden than other models who have made (usually) brief transitions into acting. Could she become the Britt Ekland of the second decade of this century? If people keep making caper films like Kidon, it’s a distinct possibility.
While it’s fun to see all the scrambling after one laptop, it might have been nice if Naccache had been able to elevate all this plot into something that would linger a little longer afterwards, if there had been a bit more incisive social or political commentary or some more memorable characters. But that’s not really the point of the film. The late New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael once said that many film reviewers wrote as if they wished they could watch a movie like (Ingmar Bergman’s) The Seventh Seal every day. Some moviegoers may feel that way, too, and this light comedy won’t please them.
But if you’d like some escapist fun, in Hebrew and French, then Kidon will fill the bill.
Written and directed by Emmanuel Naccache
With Sasson Gabbai, Amos Tamam, Tomer Sisley, Bar Refaeli
Running time: 98 minutes.
In Hebrew and French