April 2, 2018  (Web Review)

The Insult

Cohen, 113 min., in Arabic w/English subtitles, R, DVD: $25.99, Blu-ray: $30.99, May 1

Reviewer rating: 3.5/4

Ziad Doueiri’s intriguing Lebanese political drama was an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film and a winner of the 2017 Venice Film Festival’s Best Actor Award (Kamel El Basha). Because of an undercurrent of tension between Lebanese Christians and Palestinian Muslim refugees in contemporary Beirut, a casual insult is blown way out of proportion. When Yasser (El Basha), a Palestinian construction foreman, repairs a broken gutter on a balcony belonging to Tony Hanna (Adel Karam), a Lebanese Christian car mechanic, he’s splashed with water. Yasser offers to fix an illegal drainpipe, but belligerent Tony slams the door in his face, upsetting his own pregnant wife (Rita Hayek) in the process. That leads to an insulting vulgarity followed by Tony’s insistence on an abject apology, which Yasser initially refuses. In reluctant placation, Yasser goes to Tony’s garage, just as the latter is listening to Bachir Gemayel’s anti-Palestinian speech. Carried away by the hate-filled verbiage, Tony tells Yasser he wishes Ariel Sharon had “wiped them out,” which incites Yasser to punch Tony, ending up breaking a few of his ribs. Their feud escalates until it spirals out of control, becoming a media circus that eventually leads to a legal showdown. Tony’s case is fronted by experienced Wajdi Wehbe (Camille Salame), while young Nadine (Diamand Bou Abboud) valiantly mounts Yasser’s defense in what becomes a tense courtroom thriller. Highly recommended. [Note: DVD/Blu-ray extras include “Conversations from the Quad” with director Ziad Doueiri and professor Richard Pena (33 min.). Bottom line: a solid extras package for a fine foreign film.] (S. Granger)