Review – Wait, Didn’t I Just See This? (“Kandahar”)

If you saw the trailer for Gerard Butler’s latest actioner, Kandahar, you probably thought to yourself, “Wait, haven’t I seen this movie before?”  The answer is yes, yes you have. From The Contractor to Extraction to the recent Guy Ritchie’s Covenant, this is a recycled “must escape from behind enemy lines” plot done over and over again.

There’s big trouble in Iran after their underground nuclear plant goes kablooey, thanks to undercover MI6 agent Tom Harris (Butler)–who’s working with the CIA–helps to blow it to smithereens. Ah, but the Iranians don’t take too kindly to that and want revenge, wanting whoever is responsible brought to justice. . . and then sold to the highest bidder! Tom decides to hightail it outta town quickly and get back home to his divorced wife and teenage daughter, but his wealthy buddy in town (Travis Fimmel) has a quick and lucrative job for him before he leaves. Well, maybe he could stay a bit longer. . .

Yeah, bad move there, Tom. Partnered with a translator/guide nicknamed Mo (Navid Negahban), the two set out on what should be a routine trip, but you know that’s not gonna be the case, right? After a British journalist (Nina Toussaint-White) is tortured for information, Tom’s cover is blown and the Taliban is after him, sending their Agent Nazir (Ali Fazal) to take him alive. Once Tom finds out he’s being made and the bad guys are after him, the movie becomes one very long, drawn-out chase film through the streets, a marketplace, the desert, on foot, and back on the road again. Meanwhile, while Nazir is trying to find Tom, so is the CIA with their ‘eye-in-the-sky’ technology and hopefully get him out safely before more bad things happen.

It is said that a screenwriter writes a chase movie because they can’t think of anything good to write. Well, first-time writer Mitchell LaFortune must’ve seen all those other movies I mentioned (plus more) and decided to add 80% chase movie to pad out the rest. Now, don’t get me wrong, some chase films are done exceptionally well (Smokey & the Bandit, Baby Driver, the Mad Max franchise) with excitement, suspense, humor, and tight filmmaking. This ain’t that movie. This lacks all of that and is pretty much a boring, generic, procedural kinda war-time caper that would have best been suited on a TV show. There are a few moments of thrills like Tom driving with night-vision goggles and a suspenseful meeting with a former warlord at his camp, but the rest is filled with plot holes, inconsistencies, questionable character traits, dropped plot threads; in other words, all the earmarks of a first-time writer that needed a more polished script.

The only saving grace is director Ric Roman Waugh, who must be a Gerard Butler fan, as he directed him in Angel Has Fallen and Greenland. Waugh knows how to film action-adventure scenes and commits to these fully, even stopping for a few nice moments with Negahban, who matches Butler in every scene. Butler is, as always, his rugged, growling self, and teamed up with Negahban has a nice chemistry, however, if you saw the recent (and superior film) Guy Ritchie’s Covenant, this pairing of soldier & interpreter was done better. Fimmell (who looks like Charlie Hunnam) is another engaging actor that needed more screen time as Tom’s eccentric BFF. Butler This was part of the Regal $5 Monday Mystery Movie night, so I got an advanced screening.  

**Coming to theaters only on May 26th. 

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