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Film Review: Kill Daddy Good Night

Benjamin Walker
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Berlin International Film Festival -- Panorama

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BERLIN -- Provocative, prolific Austrian director Michael Glawogger is known much better for his documentaries ("Megacities," "Working Man's Death") than his features ("Slumming"), and his catchily titled but sloppy drama "Kill Daddy Good Night" strongly suggests he should stick to reality. A heady, controversy-baiting stew of the personal and the political, with a Nazi-massacre subplot chucked in for good measure, the film might ride Glawogger's reputation around the festival circuit but has dim commercial prospects beyond German-speaking territories.

Although "Kill Daddy" is not without intermittent moments of inspiration, these are undermined fatally by overreaching and fundamental weaknesses. Prominent among these is the notably anti-charismatic protagonist, a scruffy computer-game designer known as Ratz (Helmut Koepping). An irascible, depressive sort, this hallucination-prone bohemian has a stormy relationship with his uber-respectable politico father (Christian Tramitz) and devises a video game in which players can messily but safely vent their patricidal impulses.

The game becomes an unlikely underground hit just as Ratz is invited to New York by an old flame (Sabine Timoteo), who has a most unusual request involving her aging grandfather (scene-stealer Itzhak Finzi).

Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Glawogger hops among time frames, including sequences set during the 1950s and '60s in which a Lithuanian-Jewish reporter (a compelling Ulrich Tukur) testifies against and investigates a murderous war criminal, but his attention to period detail is distractingly lax. The haphazard scripting also is a problem, with the screenplay, based on Josef Haslinger's book, cobbling together hot-button themes in a manner that tests audiences' credulity and patience.