Rock the Kasbah
Director: Barry Levinson
Starring: Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Kate Hudson, Zooey Deschanel, Leem Lubany, Arian Moayed, Scott Caan, and Danny McBride
Open Road Films
The title for director Barry Levinson’s new film “Rock the Kasbah” will make music fans recall the similarly titled song by “The Clash” off their 1982 album “Combat Rock”, an album that split critics but found commercial success for the beloved punk-rock band. The film “Rock the Kasbah” may unfortunately split many viewers as well. Barry Levinson has an impressive catalog of films under his near forty-year career and with a cast of exceptional actors, “Rock the Kasbah” moves in the right directions in the first few minutes. But even the charisma of Bill Murray can’t hold up the many flaws that continuously hamper the progression of this film.
Richie Vance (Bill Murray) is a rock n’ roll talent manager on his final hurrah, with his final remaining act (Zooey Deschanel), on a USO tour in Afghanistan. Things take a bad turn when Richie’s client leaves him stranded in Kabul without any money or a passport. Richie begins to look for any method that could get him back to America, options that involve dealings with weapons suppliers (Scott Caan and Danny McBride) and negotiations with a prostitute (Kate Hudson). Just when things can’t get much worse Richie stumbles upon a young woman with a beautiful voice from a small village.
It’s seems highly unlikely that anything could go wrong with a film when Bill Murray sings “Smoke on the Water” the only way Bill Murray could sing “ Smoke on the Water”. But it unfortunately happens here. There is a lot of material being promoted and employed through the narrative; an aging agent desperate to live up to the hype he is selling, depictions of a conflict-ridden territory, commentary on culture and tradition, all wrapped up in a comedy that tries to balance between being superficial and profound. There are subtle moments when some of these elements work but they are usually undermined by poorly executed comedy or misguided character motivations.
The sliver of a saving grace comes from the cast that is talented enough to keep things interesting even when it looks like they are just going through the motions. If you put the camera on Bill Murray long enough and let him talk his way through a scene you are bound to find gold sooner or later. And in some scenes this is the case, look no further than the deadpan patience and panic seen in the backseat of a convertible on the night streets of Kabul with the energetic gun suppliers Scott Caan and Danny McBride. There isn’t enough done in this direction, or in any other direction for that matter, instead everything is proposed but never followed through. Making an appearance as well is Bruce Willis who plays the role he’s been portraying for some time now, basically John McClane from the “Die Hard” series reinterpreted older and grumpier.
“Rock The Kasbah” never finds its pacing but instead trudges in one direction and then in another until the neatly, emotionally forced ending. The film garners a few laughs, mostly because it keeps a misguided humorous undertone throughout. The unfortunate result of “Rock the Kasbah” is less classic rock and more forgettable pop.
2.00 out of 5.00