The Father and the Foreigner -- Film Review

Confused, cross-cultural drama about male bonding and silly international intrigue. 

ROME -- Family drama, male bonding and international intrigue mix sloppily in Ricky Tognazzi’s “The Father and the Foreigner,” which surprisingly is co-scripted by Giancarlo De Cataldo. Surprising because the criminal elements are so sophomoric it’s hard to imagine the judge-writer of gritty crime drama “Romanzo Criminale” behind them.

Presumably, that’s beside the point in a story whose core is the friendship and brotherly love that strikes up between Diego (Alessandro Gassman), a lowly public official, and Walid (Amr Waked), a wealthy, mysterious Syrian living in Rome.

Alessandro Gassman, who appears in virtually every frame and every state of undress, is always a box-office pull at home, and Egyptian star Waked a name in the Arab territories. Tognazzi’s confused hybrid will work best with those commercial audiences willing to have their stereotypes of multi-culturalism stretched a bit.

Diego and Walid meet at the clinic at which their disabled sons receive their daily physical therapy. Speaking in platitudes, Walid soon shows the emotionally aloof Diego how to love his boy, rekindle things with his wife (Ksenia Rappoport, in a very secondary role) and be an altogether better man.

Walid, however, is the key to the delicate balance between Italy and the Middle East. So says the head of the secret service (Leo Gullotta), who comes looking for Diego when Walid disappears. Diego knows nothing about the disappearance but his love of his new friend is so great that he’s willing to risk his family’s lives to find him on his own, facing down corrupt police and shady Arabs along the way.

Waked stepped in two days before shooting began to replace the original Walid and although he doesn’t speak Italian, he does a valiant job with his unnatural lines and with infusing the character with some credible mystery. The strapping Gassman is about as much of an “everyman” as Harrison Ford and, like the latter, likeable enough to carry a film. However, neither actor can save the plot from deteriorating as it heads for a schlocky conclusion.

 

Venue: Rome International Film Festival (Out of Competition)
Production companies: Ager 3, RAI Cinema
Cast: Alessandro Gassman, Amr Waked, Ksenia Rappoport, Leo Gullotta, Nadine Labaki, Zohra Mouj, Leonardo Della Bianca, Ilary Branco
Director: Ricky Tognazzi
Screenwriters: Giancarlo De Cataldo, Graziano Diana, Simona Izzo, Ricky Tognazzi
Producers: Grazia Volpi
Director of photography: Tani Canevari
Production designer: Mariangela Capuano
Music: Carlo Siliotto
Costume designer: Lina Nerli Taviani
Editor: Carla Simoncelli

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