A bitter Israeli reprobate in Manhattan reconnects with the 21-year-old army sniper son he'd rejected from birth in "Restless."

A bitter Israeli reprobate in Manhattan reconnects with the 21-year-old army sniper son he’d rejected from birth in “Restless.” Another in a line of off-puttingly quirky international indies from writer-director Amos Kollek, title should do well in those pockets of Europe and elsewhere his work is seen as cutting-edge; most others wandering in will emulate the title.

Pic dwells in the early reels on the thoroughly unlikeable Moshe (Moshe Ivgy), a jittery bundle of nervous insults who hates his homeland, yearns to be a poet and barely scrapes along on New York streets selling timepieces, jewelry and whatever else he can lay his hands on. He has zero home life, and the only words of affection he hears are from an affable hooker, who encourages him during sex to “bring me home, little watch salesman.”

Meanwhile, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, Moshe’s estranged son Tzach (Ran Danker) is the crack sniper on an elite commando unit. He takes his work rather more seriously than is perhaps healthy.

When Tzach’s mother dies, the distraught young man discovers dad’s number and agonizes over whether or not to contact him. His decision is made for him when, arguing with dad via cell phone, Tzach becomes so agitated he accidentally shoots a youngster at his checkpoint.

In the meantime, Moshe has stumbled into an entirely unexpected new career as a latter-day Lenny Bruce in a club near his apartment. Switching randomly from Hebrew to English, he recites his own free-form verse, castigates Israel in particular and generally provokes his auds. When not doing this, he wins over the heart of flinty barmaid Yolanda (Karen Young) and frolics with elderly pistol Sheila (Phyllis Somerville).

Pic has two nearly insurmountable stumbling blocks. The first is that it takes father and son too long to get into the same room. The second is that Moshe’s verse is cringeworthy, a self-consciously incoherent free-association ramble that makes Beat poetry look like Shakespeare. With speedbumps that pronounced, story never works up a decent head of steam.

Ivgy gives a showy role his all, Danker anchors the film with his intensity, Young does the best she can with a contrived character and Somerville is one sexy senior citizen.

Tech package is adequate. Pic is dedicated to helmer’s late father, Theodor “Teddy” Kollek, who served as Jerusalem’s mayor from 1965-1993.

Restless

(Israel)

Production

A Hamon Hafakot, Pie Films production, in co-production with Amerique Films, Twenty Twenty Vision, Liaison Cinematographique, Paradise Films, Entre Chien et Loup. (International sales: Bavaria Film Intl., Geiselgasteig, Germany.) Produced by Michael Tapuach, Talia Kleinhendler, Martin Paul Hus, Sebastien Delloye, Diana Elbaum, Thanassis Karathanos, Colin Stanfield, Marilyn Watelet. Directed, written by Amos Kollek.

Crew

Camera (color), Virginie Saint-Martin; editor, Isaac Sehayek; music, Delphine Measroch; production designers, John Meighen, Yoram Shayer; costume designer, Janet Campbell; sound, Patrick Ghislain; assistant director, Blair Roth. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 14, 2008. Running time: 101 MIN.

With

Moshe Ivgy, Ran Danker, Karen Young, Phyllis Somerville. (English, Hebrew, Arabic dialogue)

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