It’s too dry to be entertaining.
“Kandahar” is the latest collaboration between Gerard Butler and director Ric Roman Waugh after the awful “Angel Has Fallen” and the entertaining “Greenland.” It’s neither awful or entertaining; it’s in the center of “Who Cares?” and “Moving On.” It’s a movie that’s more 2 stars than 1 star.
When it comes to action movies, whether or not they’re released by big studios, there has to be a balance between action and narrative. But there also has to be originality to really keep us watching. There’s none of that here. It’s too forgettable for me tastes, but it’s not a hateful one, at least.
Butler plays Tom Harris, an undercover CIA operative in Afghanistan, who needs to get home for his daughter’s graduation, but is called for a quick job. A job to destroy a nuclear program. He agrees on the condition that he receives a translator named Mohammad “Mo” Doud (Navid Negahban). Unfortunately, his alias Benjamin Wheeler gets exposed, and no one is coming to rescue them, not even his handler (Travis Fimmel), which is why they must make it on their own in Kandahar.
The translator also lost his eldest son in a terrorist attack, and must also find his wife’s sister, who went missing. When he finds his son’s killer, he uses his emotions wisely, which is more entertaining than the action sequences.
There’s Kahill (Ali Fazal), who is assigned with tracking down this operative. This feels more like in between segments than an actual international thriller.
There’s also a kidnapping of a British reporter (Nina Toussaint-White), who is threatened to be taken home as a martyr. At least I think what this side is about, because I could barely read it. In fact, this subplot has nowhere to go, because it cuts and pastes itself. We get the kidnapping and the deal, but we’re waiting to see where it will go, and it ends with a happy conclusion.
“Kandahar” has me interested in the opening scenes when Tom is posing as a line worker giving a city internet, while gunmen question him and his team. And it also has me interested in Negahban’s performance. He’s actually more interesting than Butler’s character, because of how he transcends his emotions, while the other is a run-of-the-mill spy. It’s a shame that I have to like the co-star over the leading man.
Butler did a nice job earlier this year in “Plane,” because he was able to do something with his character and not be the typical action hero some movies make him appear to be. But in “Kandahar,” he’s given nothing fresh to do here. He just presides over the dangers and decisions his character has made.
In fact, most of this movie is forgettable with its cliches, explosions, angry gunmen, and family dramas. It all feels like an excuse to be made so action movie fans can be drawn into the theater, when there are so many better movies to see.
For a movie to take place in a sandy country, it’s too dry to be popcorn entertainment.