Release Date: October 23, 2015
Director: Barry Levinson
Writer: Mitch Glazer (screenplay)
Cast: Bill Murray, Leem Lubany, Zooey Deschanel, Bruce Willis, Kate Hudson, Arian Moayed, Scott Caan, Danny McBride, Fahim Fazli, Jonas Khan, Sameer Ali Khan, Beejan Land, Husam Chadat, Taylor Kinney, Megan Raich, Sarah Baker, Glenn Fleshler, Avery Phillips, Fatim Zahra El Hassani, Hassan Bouayad, Sebastien Collineau, Hamdane Mohamed Habib
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 100 minutes
Production Company: Dune Films, QED International, Shangri-La Entertainment, Venture Forth, Open Road Films (II)
Genre: Comedy, Music
It’s much appreciated and insightful when a known custom in your homeland is portrayed by a different culture or group of people. It reassures the notion that we all here on earth have the same aspirations of being loved, happy, and healthy. That we’re all more of the same, but go about our daily routines differently. Rock the Kasbah didn’t strike that claim on the head, but had undertones to suggest it. In a foreign land lead by Bill Murray, he embarks on a journey to find the next big talent. This film is based on a true story, but the way it’s told is bizarre, on top of being uncomfortable. I don’t know everything, and I’m not going to make the ignorant assumption that everyone in Afghanistan is evil warlords (some people in America feel this way), but to take a sensitive area to some, while trying to mix comedic elements in between, may have been a mistake, and a waste of money towards this Hollywood production.
Every film needs a leading man/woman, and here we have Richie Lanz (Bill Murray). He’s an out of work music manager willing to literally hire anyone to make a quick buck. He’s tired and frustrated, reacting the same way anyone would in any given situation initially. He glows with the mentality of live or die, but doesn’t go about it in the best of ways. If Murray’s role of Lanz was to portray apathy, he hit a homerun. Though that behavior made it hard to care for his character. I don’t know why Bruce Willis signed on for this project, for his talents go far beyond this material. As the headlines suggests, Mr. Willis seems to only take on smaller projects for an easy paycheck, and his involvement here makes that clear. His casting did nothing for the role other than distract me from a story I already cared little about. The only character that drew me in was Merci (Kate Hudson). She was a massive whore looking to retire soon, and I respected her hustle. At least she knew who she was, and was about getting the money. Not that, that is the most important in life, but she had goals and saw them through. Her reality of being promiscuous overseas where she isn’t known was clever to say the least.
The film is only one hundred minutes long, but the true story arc only lasted thirty. The setup of the plot is so elementary it’s embarrassing. “Hey are you down on your luck? Well move to Afghanistan where it’s easier.” That individual giving the advice was beyond drunk, and popped in and out of the film like a whack-a-mole. I nearly wanted to walk out at this point, because it seemed no real attempt was being made at worthy filmmaking. Towards the beginning of the film we spent so much time with Ronnie (Zooey Deschanel), barely developing her character, but she disappears as the trailers suggest which wastes too much screen time. That’s fine if that really happened, but the director Barry Levinson (Toys, Rainman) didn’t have to spend so much time with that character, or anything else that had nothing to do with the overall product.
The mixture of tones/genres is the cardinal sin here. Trying to tie together comedy in a place where random deaths are as normal as blinking eyes isn’t the best idea. This is the conclusion the film came up with, and not my own. Throughout the film, a numerous amount of characters are constantly reminding the audience about how dangerous the area is, how they’re on lockdown from an assassination attempt towards a high official, how land mines are everywhere, then continue to list just about any other dangerous thing you could think of. Yet jokes are being made about bullets and car bombs sporadically. It just wasn’t for me. There was comedy in the film with two or three jokes sprinkled around, but the rest should’ve stayed buried with the land mines. I felt like I was losing forty-five minutes of sleep with every poorly crafted joke they tried to make. That annoying buzzing alarm clock sound at five in the morning was the feeling you endured with each attempt of comedy.
As you can probably tell, I didn’t care for this film too much. I love Bruce Willis and Bill Murray, but they did absolutely nothing for me this time around. The film fails from a character standpoint focusing on the wrong people, and Bill Murray phoning in his performance. The main character trying to make fame on Afghan Star barely has any screen presence, which makes little to zero sense. If the film spent more time with her and her beliefs, it would’ve shot this film up to a respectable character driven piece. Instead it’s in a foreign land, with characters you don’t care for in the least bit. It’s barely funny with jokes landing randomly all over the place. The ending was great, but that’s only with the Afghan’s star’s beautiful voice as she’s singing over the credits. If a true story is told, in my opinion it needs to be worth telling. I want a great story, great characters, and something that’s inspiring. It is inspiring with what the young lady had to go through, but the film did a HORRIBLE job at conveying that point, and showing her courage.