It’s interesting that Gerard Butler has developed into sort of the modern king of B-movie action cinema. When his stuff is a little bit ridiculous, he seems to be in his element. It’s when he goes for the grittier or more realistic options, he appears far blander and the work comes up short. We had an example of the former with Plane, though this film, Kandahar, is most certainly an example of the latter. By trying to be about something more, it actually ends up being even more clearly a paper thin experience.
Kandahar is so paper-thin, it’s all the more disappointing because the talent involved does seem to think they’re making something a bit deeper. Coming on the heels of Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant does this one no favors, either. Very similar, at least in broad strokes, it comes up rather short by any comparison.
CIA Operative Tom Harris (Butler) is introduced executing a mission to destroy an Iranian nuclear facility. The operative is successful, setting Tom up for a trip back stateside to see his family. Then, his CIA handler (Travis Fimmel) convinces him to do one last job…because, of course. Given a translator in Mo (Navid Negahban), the pair are doing a quick job before Tom gets out of dodge. At the same time, a journalist (Elenaaz Noruouzi) is arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard for her role in a Pentagon whistleblower story. Putting two and two together, the operation, as well as Tom, are burned.
Forced to flee to safety, Tom and Mo are tracked by all kinds, including an assassin (Ali Fazal). Along the way, the pair bond, learning more about each other. As they get closer to safe haven, danger increases, as well as the realization of just what the stakes are for both. It’s all so frustratingly close to interesting cinema.
Gerard Butler is fine here, but there’s nothing to the role. Butler looks and sounds like an action hero, but there’s no personality on display. It all just seems like he’s going through the motions. Navid Negahban is solid enough, though even with the little bit of emotion to his part, it’s still incredibly thin, limiting what he can do. No one else even has a little bit to do, which is a shame. Supporting players include Olivia-Mai Barrett, Rebecca Calder, Bahador Foladi, Vassilis Koukalani, Nina Toussaint-White, and more.
Director Ric Roman Waugh is a competent filmmaker, but Kandahar has absolutely no personality. Waugh tries for some interesting shots and paces things decently, but writer Mitchell LaFortune is giving him very little to work with. LaFortune has a great story, but doesn’t execute it with any real flourish. All of the subplots set up early on are basically abandoned. A longtime collaborator with Butler, Waugh clearly sees a lot in his leading man. Unfortunately, he never is able to translate it to the audience, whether it’s here in Greenland, or in the Has Fallen franchise sequels.
Kandahar is a disposable Gerard Butler adventure. There’s just nothing about it that stands out in the slightest. Never overtly bad, it just sort of lays there, almost stubbornly refusing to take a step forward. So, we’re left with something that might play on cable eventually and find a crowd, albeit one with decently low standards. Oh well.