In the Fade ends up out of focus

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      Starring Diane Kruger. In German, with English subtitles. Rated 14A

      This Golden Globe winner has a lot more appeal on paper than in the finished Fade.

      German-born Diane Kruger, who usually appears in French or American productions, gets a rare workout in her native language as Katja, a Hamburg woman whose life is torn apart when her Turkish husband and their small son are killed in a random-looking terror attack. The film’s original title can be translated as Out of Nowhere or Over Nothing, and both convey the pure shock of the event and the paucity of reasoning behind it that’s eventually revealed. (Aside from perhaps referring to a Queens of the Stone Age song with that title, it’s hard to imagine what In the Fade might mean.)

      The terror turns out to be homegrown, leading to a court case in which we learn more about the German legal system than we expected to see. There are some fairly taut standoffs between the widow’s sympathetic lawyer (Denis Moschitto) and the defendants’ sharklike attorney (Revanche’s excellent Johannes Krisch). Katja herself is somewhat passive in this middle interlude, leading to a more action-packed, albeit fatally muddled, finish.

      Responsible for wittier, more trenchant meditations on Turkish-German relations like Head-On, The Edge of Heaven, and the comic Soul Kitchen, writer-director Fatih Akin doesn’t seem to know what to do with the leather-clad Katja. She grieves, she pouts, she takes drugs, she tries to commit suicide. All quite understandable, but this takes the place of deeper character-building—a job that’s left to Kruger, who fills the screen with an intense, if somewhat formless, presence.

      When the trial ends on a rather contrived technical note, the movie morphs into a routine Liam Neeson–type revenge drama, with hints of social context to make you think you’re still watching art. The action shifts to Greece, with the far-right Golden Dawn movement an ominous presence. But Akin can’t decide if Katja is an avenging angel or a self-destructive fool, thus making some ham-fisted points about the futility of terror while dissipating audience investment in the outcome. He’s making several kinds of movie here, and none of them quite work.