My Best Enemy

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Moritz Bleibtreu and Ursula Strauss in My Best Enemy

Quentin Tarantino pulled off Inglorious Basterds with seat-of-the-pants verve; you shudder to think how his for-laughs Nazi revisionism would have played without that kind of confidence behind the camera. Now you don’t have to wonder: Austrian director Wolfgang Murnberger steps awkwardly into a hot zone of ironic switched identity—the swappers are an SS officer and a deracinated Jew—and plants his foot squarely on a land mine.

In earlier, happier days circa 1938, Victor (Run Lola Run’s Moritz Bleibtreu), the dazzling son of wealthy Viennese art dealers, reunites with a childhood friend, Rudi (Georg Friedrich), the latter seething with class jealousy. He’s since secretly joined Hitler’s ranks. Rudi rats out his former benefactors for a priceless Michelangelo, but look out for that plane crash five years later! Out of the wreckage crawl the two men, their uniforms and power exchanged.

The execution is less quick-witted than the premise suggests; never does squirmy Rudi, for all his insistence, seem sympathetic, while Victor, cutting a handsome presence in Reich garb, displays little in the way of unease. Even when the artwork, a sketch, turns out to be fake and the race is on for the real one (with geopolitical alliances at risk), My Best Enemy bleeds suspense like a pin-pricked tire. It wants to be clever, but survivor tales bring with them too much muck.

Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf

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