Friday, 15 September 2017

BAD MOVIE JAMBOREE: Rock the Kasbah (Barry Levinson, 2015)

Burned-out rock manager Richie Lanz takes his last client on a USO tour to Afghanistan. After she bails and abandons him, Lanz tries to figure a way out of his predicament. Along the way, he runs into a collection of oddball characters: Kate Hudson's saintly call girl; Scott Caan and Danny McBride's gun runners; Bruce Willis's hard-nosed mercenary; and a young Pashtun girl who dreams of becoming a singer (Leem Lubany).

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The same goes for Hollywood dramas with social relevance. Hollywood has a history of taking important political events, figures and issues, and refracting them through a white guy's point of view (Cry FreedomThe Help or this year's Bruce Lee kinda-biopic Birth of the Dragon).

Rock the Kasbah is a particularly obnoxious example of this storyline. Every decision made, at every level of production, reads like checklist of what not to do with a movie based on real events.

To be honest, this movie feels like a dodge. Two studio executives had some money in an offshore account that they wanted to get rid of, and so they took a bunch of drugs and dictated a rambling story about their own lives to some poor schlub and presto!

Throw in a talented director and cast in need of some quick cash... and you got yourself a movie baby!

It is almost unbelievable how strong the cast's collective pedigree is here, and yet everyone is completely off-base. Murray, usually so sure and on-point in his choices, is a cartoon. A portrait of a boorish Ugly American, Murray's self-obsessed scumbag completely overshadows the central figure of the story: Leem Lubany's Salima.

Ultimately this movie never clarifies what its purpose is. While it offers a dedication to the real woman the movie was based on in the closing credits, that story is never foregrounded - it just becomes another kooky subplot, and a catalyst for Murray's redemption.

But even that arc makes no sense. Murray's asshole producer does exactly the same thing he did at the beginning at the end. The only thing that changes is that he gets shot - taken out of the third act entirely. It falls to other characters, offscreen, to get him out of trouble.

There is the kernel of a movie here, but it is buried under a bunch of self-consciously eccentric characters and subplots. For such a simple concept, it feels so top loaded with unnecessary nonsense. It feels like five or six movies mashed together.

It is so frustrating, because the story does not need to be padded out. Murray's character is so unnecessary for the story, yet he is in every single scene. Salima never gets a sequence on her own - her whole story is basically cutaways from whatever BS Murray is doing.

Lubany is good, but is completely stranded in this dreck. Hopefully she finds better roles in the future, and is not just 'exotic' window dressing for Hollywood egos.

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