Perhaps Iron Cross will be best remembered as Roy Scheider's final movie (he died just before completing it two years ago) but taken on its own the Nazi revenge drama is a gripping, suspenseful and important film that like Inglourious Basterds offers up a satisfying twist on more conventional movies dealing with the Holocaust. Although still without a domestic distributor, an enterprising company could probably cough up some decent business based on Scheider's name and the fact that some very serious subject matter has been skillfully wrapped up in the form of a contemporary thriller that should have particular appeal to an older audience. There could be significant business down the line on DVD.
Scheider plays Joseph, a retired New York cop, recent widower and holocaust survivor who travels back to Nuremberg in order to make amends with his estranged son (Scott Cohen) who is living there. Soon he becomes obsessed with his son's neighbor and becomes convinced he is the former SS Commander who killed his entire family in the concentration camps. Played by veteran German star Helmut Berger, the suspected Nazi is now living under a false name and Joseph enlists the aid of his very reluctant son to join him in a plot to kidnap and kill the man. All of these contemporary scenes are interwoven with frequent flashbacks to the younger Joseph (Alexander Newton) highlighting his efforts to escape the Nazi tyranny, along with a subplot detailing his budding romance with a brave Polish girl (Sarah Bolger).
The underlying theme of debuting writer/director Joshua Newton's premise is a ‘what would you do' kind of moral question. If confronted with a person you are convinced wiped out your family, would you exact revenge or go another way? (Newton dedicated the film to his own late father, a real life holocaust survivor.) What he's achieved here is a beautifully crafted movie likely to have audiences talking long afterward, especially considering the twist ending that left the audience I previewed the film with buzzing.
Scheider clearly shows his age here but has lost none of the dynamic force that has characterized his most successful roles. He fits the role of a veteran NYC Cop with obvious ease and is quite touching and real in quieter moments. Playing his younger version in flashback sequences, Alexander Newton (the director's son) is engaging and a perfect fit. It's also great to see Berger (The Damned) back in a substantial role as he, along with Scheider, give the film much needed gravitas.
Technical contributions are top notch, especially considering the limited budget with particular kudos to the sharp camera work from Adrian Cranage and James Simon and Newton's own fast-paced editing.
Cast: Roy Scheider, Helmut Berger, Alexander Newton, Sarah Bolger and Scott Cohen
Director/Screenwriter: Joshua Newton
Producers: Kevin Farr and Joshua Newton
Running time: 104 min.
Release date: TBD