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‘…a more-than-watchable star-vehicle, but falling way short of what a gallus unit like Butler should be able to bring to the fray…’

Following hot on the heels of Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant, which tells of the heroic efforts made by US troops to secure the safety of their Afghan interpreters, Gerry Butler steps into the mix with a new war epic on his G-Base imprint. Yes, Kandahar is also about a Western black-ops soldier who goes above and beyond the call of duty to help his Afghan translator; as previously noted, the action of these films has been superseded by the hapless surrender of the Trump/Biden regimes and the grim reality of Afghan people hung out to dry. This one comes from a spec script written by military intelligence officer Mitchell LaFortune way back in 2016, and so much has changed since then that Kandahar’s in country adventures, like The Covenant, bypassed UK cinemas and gets dumped with zero fanfare of the benighted council telly of Amazon Prime.

The relationship between a mercenary and a translator feels like a rich one to develop; both are making their crust from war, but with different levels of responsibility. This one hinges on the interplay between Tom Harris (Butler) and Mohammad ‘Mo’ Doud, plated by Navid Negahbhan, but we don’t get to that for a good forty minutes of familiar espionage plotting. We start by peering through high-tech graticules with Harris under-cover in Iran, organising the sabotage of a nuclear reactor; ‘even their chimneys are hidden’ is the admiring line fed back to the CIA in Langley, but Harris moves on with a pithy ‘We’re not hanging from a crane yet.’ Motivated, cringe, cringe, with a desire to return home to see his daughter’s graduation, presumably because he’s also saved enough to pay for his poor’s mother’s potentially life-changing eye operation, Harris is a black ops man motivated by whiter-than-white intentions; ‘I like this guy, he is good!’ his US handlers cream their jeans as they watch his daring escapes by satellite. Harris heads to Dubai, then Afghanistan, where he finds his cover abruptly blown and he frantically tries to organise an extraction for himself and his interpreter Mo.

The scenes of Harris and Mo struggling for unity are the strongest suit of Ric Roman Waugh’s film; ’This is my life in your hands,’ says Mo, before an emergency tyre change causes him to pivot to a accusatory ‘You used me as bait.’ Like The Covenant, Kandahar almost lands a killer blow in terms of capturing what made the hurried pull-out from Afghanistan such a moral and physical disaster; unfortunately, the film was shot in Saudi Arabia and takes advantage of in-kind funding from the Saudi Film Commission, so it’s got as much moral and geopolitical credibility as a meet-and-greet for a PGA/LIV golf tournament named after Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi. Yet compared to the comic –book racism of the ‘Olympus/London/Angel Has Fallen’ sequence, which Kandahar is apparently marketed as part of in some territories, this is a far superior beast, surprisingly sensitive to Mo’s journey back to his wife’s sister, the loss of his son, and a tart scene where a warlord warns of ‘the dangers of stamping out ideology’ to be countered my Mo’s succinct plea’ “I just want to go home.’

‘You have to return home to know what you are fighting for,’ is the thoughtful take-away here, but at least it’s an improvement on London Has Fallen’s considered message ‘Go back to F*ckheadistan!’ Kandahar seems to be trying to update such attitudes, but corny details like the motor-bike and mortar-team villains drag Kandahar down to Delta Force levels. Add in Amazon’s typical CGAF attitude to the shoddy presentation of their products, with all subtitles totally out of sync with the action, and Kandahar looks like the wreckage of a much better project; a more-than-watchable star-vehicle, but falling way short of what a gallus unit like Butler should be able to bring to the fray.


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  1. Free on prime ~ Check
    Gerry Butler as a special forces guy ~ Check
    A movie Bookstooge will never watch ~ Check

    One thing these movies never seem to understand is that the men in the special forces units aren’t there for a paycheck. They are true believers in the US Constitution and what America was founded on. I don’t think hollywood knows how to handle that, so they just don’t. And their stories are much poorer for it (of course, it’s hard to believe they could actually BE poorer, considering how bad most movies writing already is)

    I asked you about the strike thingy a month or so ago. Any changes in your thoughts on how its going to affect things?

    • The strike seems to have ground things to a halt, and I look for signs of improvement every day, but see none at present.

      Sure there was a big US action movie that was meant to have real soldiers in it. Will come back when I remember it. But agree that I’d rather see a motivation stronger than GB getting home for his daughter’s graduation.

      • Any idea on how long things will ripple out from the strike? I mean, everyone now thinks “Cinema is Saved” with the Barbenheimer phenomenon but with the strike, you won’t get anything for quite some time. can the studios stretch out release dates so movies are still trickling into the cinemas or will there be a real black out? Oh wait, you said it mainly affected tv. Right, never mind, carry on…

        • No, you are right, there’s a stockpile of new releases which is getting depleted. The longer the strike goes on, the weaker that pile gets. But Barbenheimer’s success suggests that the old models are out of date. We don’t need 80 year old action stars or iP, we need movies with value and meaning, and AI ain’t gonna do dat.

          • But to move to a new model takes time and a willingness to change. Is that something the strikers can push for? Or are their goals totally different from that and so won’t affect the change.

            • We can agree that Hollywood has a lack of value and morality, and that often shows through in the product. It’ll take more than a couple of strikes to sort that out…

  2. Ha! I was just on the library web page yesterday and saw this in the new and upcoming DVD releases section. I looked at the pic and said “That looks like Gerry Butler. Why have I never heard of this? And how many movies is Butler doing these days?” Now I feel better informed.

    • And that is the magic of tinterweb! I’m a fan of Butler, and his films are evolving, so I wouldn’t put you off watching this, it’s an intertwining action movie that almost gets elevated by noble intentions. Butler seems to be getting somewhere as a film-maker, and this is a quantum leap from London Has Fallen.

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