by Rob DiCristino
Gather ‘round, kids, and let me tell you about movies. While you may know them today as live-action reimaginings of your dad’s favorite breakfast cereal mascots, movies used to be about charming, attractive, or otherwise sympathetic characters going on adventures. They used to be self-contained stories that anyone could watch without needing six Wikipedia tabs open to track backstory and character references from previous IP. I know; it’s weird. Let me give you an example: Suppose there’s a guy whose job keeps him away from his family for long stretches at a time. He’s gotta work, you know? But his wife is tired of waiting around for him and decides that she wants a divorce. Sucks, right? But it gets worse! His daughter is graduating high school, and he needs to get home in time for her party. However, this guy — let’s call him “Tom” (Gerard Butler) — just received a job offer that will pay enough to put said daughter through college. Does he take the job or go home to his family? Which is more important? This is what we used to call an “internal conflict.”
On paper, Kandahar sounds like a slam-dunk, the easiest $1.50 a Redbox denizen like myself could possibly spend for a Sunday afternoon’s entertainment. Gerard Butler — star of January’s excellent Plane — has now firmly cemented himself as one of our great B-movie action dads, and with director Ric Roman Waugh (who also helmed Butler vehicles Angel Has Fallen and Greenland) in tow, there’s no excuse for Kandahar to be anything but a lean and mean ninety-minute romp. Both actor and director come to play: Butler has become expert at pairing ruffled machismo with a kind of hang-dog sentimentality, while Waugh takes every opportunity to show off his Saudi Arabian shooting locations with a creative mix of sweeping crane shots and handheld close-ups. Kandahar was made with care by a team of professionals who clearly know how to deliver movies that feel like movies, movies that understand why tactile environments and compelling pathos breed better dramatic stakes than giant laser beams shooting down from space.
Kandahar hits theaters today, May 26th.