Back in the ol’ video store days, there was a Mom & Pop near my house that I frequented almost every weekend. One of the cooler things about this particular store was how they displayed their titles. Of course, most were shelved by genre, but there were also sections-within-sections that featured all the available films from a particular actor. For example, if you needed a Charles Bronson action fix, you could cut to the chase and find The Mechanic, Mr. Majestic and all 37 Death Wish movies in one spot.
If that mom & pop was still around, chances are Gerard Butler would have own little section. And if I strolled in one Friday seeking a little mayhem but had no particular movie in-mind, I’d probably make a stop there. Butler prolifically cranks-out mid-range thrillers that are, more often than not, pretty entertaining because they deliver exactly as advertised. While he isn’t likely to ever stick an Oscar on his mantel, he’s certainly Mr. Reliable when it comes to stuff like this.
Kandahar is his second meat & potatoes action flick of 2023 (following Plane). And like Plane, nothing about it is gonna knock anyone’s socks off, but it’s solidly entertaining, with plenty of guns, explosions, chases and yet-another reliably gritty performance by Butler.
It doesn’t start off that way, though. In fact, everything is pretty convoluted at first, with too many characters introduced, their actions unclear. Then about 20 minutes in - once all the pieces are in place - the narrative sheds the unnecessary complexities to focus on the meat of the story. Butler plays Tom Harris, an ex-MI6 agent now working freelance and hired by the CIA to sabotage an Iranian nuclear power plant. After getting away - seemingly undetected - his handler offers another job deep in Afghanistan, aided by Mohammed “Mo” Doud (Navid Negahban), who knows the area and speaks the language.
|Gerard Butler and co-star.|
For the most part, it’s an exciting chase, with several tension-filled action sequences. It doesn’t always seem plausible, such as Fazai relentlessly pursuing them across the desert all by himself (day and night), but things move along at fast enough that we can overlook such discrepancies. I suppose some comparisons could be made between Kandahar and Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant, released earlier this year with a somewhat similar concept. But whereas the latter is (so far) one of 2023’s best films, Kandahar isn’t in the same league, mainly because the two main characters aren’t quite as dynamic or relatable.
Still, Kandahar is another Gerard Butler action-fest that delivers as promised, meeting expectations without ever exceeding them. It kind of came-and-went in theaters in the blink of an eye, but that’s okay, since his movies tend to play better in the comfort of your living room, where Mr. Reliable is always welcome.
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