The title "Walking With the Enemy" suggests a peculiar lack of urgency, so it's a disappointingly accurate handle indeed.
First-time director Mark Schmidt's World War II drama, written primarily by Kenny Golde with lots of additional contributors, according to imdb.com, takes its inspiration from the real-life rabbi's son Pinchas Rosenbaum, who impersonated a Hungarian Arrow Cross officer in collusion with the Nazis near the end of WWII. The ruse aided the rescue of an estimated 1,000 Budapest Jews. At the start of the war Hungary's leader, Regent Horthy (played by Ben Kingsley), acted as a wavering ally of the Axis powers. The Jewish Hungarian population was, for a while, spared from the worst of the Holocaust. Then they weren't.
"Walking With the Enemy" centers on a substantially fictionalized version of Rosenbaum, Elek Cohen, portrayed by Jonas Armstrong of BBC-TV's "Robin Hood." Much of the story concerns Cohen's participation in what came to be known as the Glass House, a former glass factory housing up to 3,000 Jews at a perilous time. There, under the guidance of Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz (William Hope), the underground warriors printed thousands of false documents and distributed them, in secret, to Budapest Jews in hopes of getting them out of the country alive.
There's a lot here, and all of it is dramatically viable. But Schmidt's pedestrian storytelling treats the tale's factual and fictional characters in a clunky and artificial way. The script cannot resist the predictable beats, with Cohen perpetually saving the day in his Nazi uniform — the movie changes the protagonist's purloined garb from Arrow Cross to Nazi — just as another fellow Jew is about to die at the hands of an Arrow Cross or Nazi thug.
There's a clean-scrubbed and antiseptic air to much of "Walking With the Enemy." Cohen's romance with a young Hungarian woman (Hannah Tointon) is strictly a surface job. "How has life come to this?" she asks Cohen at one point. "Three months ago we were dancing."
Millions do not know this piece of WWII history. The film doesn't do enough to bring one of Hungary's war heroes to three-dimensional life.
"Othella" - 2 stars
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for war violence including crimes against humanity)
Running time: 2:03
Opens: FridayCopyright © 2015, RedEye