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The latest Gerard Butler action movie, Kandahar, falls flat — go rent Plane instead

One of the pleasant cinematic surprises of this year was Gerard Butler’s vehicle level. While it won’t win any awards and certainly leans into its conservative politics, as a B-movie action thriller it was, well… exciting. In recent years, Butler has slipped into a bit of a supporting role as a macho outsider willing to use brute force to solve complex socio-political problems. Much like Liam Neeson, who is heading in a similar direction, Butler has created an action hero persona that appeals to a passionate, if not more niche, audience than a traditional action-adventure star.

Kandaharits second action thriller of the year, beats many of the same beats as level. Some scenes appear to have been copied from one to the other, such as a moment when a man from a control room remotely praises Butler’s Tom Harris, “I like that guy,” which feels like a direct reflection of a character in feels like a control room level Hearing Butler overpower a drunk passenger, he utters more or less the same sentence. But Kandahar stops where level increases.

In KandaharGerard Butler stars as Tom Harris, a CIA undercover agent stranded deep in enemy territory in Afghanistan who, along with his Afghan translator, must fight his way to an extraction point in Kandahar. After a somewhat intriguing opening movie, in which Harris poses as an internet provider and woos incredulous soldiers with high-speed footage of a live soccer game, the film slows to a freezing pace. The nearly two-hour long film has minimal action for the most part for the first half of the film and basically deals with uninteresting and flat acting. Bogged down by this misjudgment of pacing, the audience is already half full when the film begins.

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Kandahar Gerard Butler
Navid Negahban and Gerard Butler in Kandahar

However, the action in the second half is above average. It’s exciting, a race against time as the characters try to get from point A to point B with many obstacles in their way. Butler is an impressive and remarkably vulnerable screen presence, and his co-star for this second half of the film, Navid Negahban, is equally compelling. Though the film loses momentum early on, the script still feels like a cut above your average American propaganda film, which quite frankly examines the long-term damage caused by modern warfare.

The problem is that the film doesn’t quite reconcile its action ambitions with the political intrigue at the heart of the character relationships. While the film is somewhat interesting on paper, it feels flat on screen. While there are some compelling sequences, including some aesthetically daring moments, the film fails to fit together. It’s too vague, torn between its big, goofy cinematic style and its grappling with the complexities of war. The film also contains some ridiculously silly moments (including some hilariously misplaced pinpricks) that drain the film of any energy or mood.

While some B-movie action stars seem to be checked out, Butler never does. Not only is it important to him to deliver surprisingly good action, but also that his characters are rooted in a real and varied emotional place (though with some similarities – he’s often a divorced and/or single father). He is undeniably a charismatic and engaging screen presence; That’s unfortunate Kandahar As far as this year’s films go, it’s not exciting. ■

Kandahar (Director: Ric Roman Waugh)

Kandahar opens in Montreal cinemas on Friday, May 26.


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