I was warned by various people about the mediocrity of Karim Abdel Aziz s film “Khareg Ala Al-Qanoon (The Outlaw) but, buoyed by the excellence of Egyptian action flick “El-Gezira (The Island) and in the absence of an alternative, I went anyway.
I repented this decision through the course of two excruciatingly long hours, largely spent trying to work out if this was a remake of another film or just a hackneyed quilt of the plots of every gangster film ever made.
Writer Bilal Fadl sticks to the classic recipe for the genre: take one small boy and make him witness his father’s death at the hands of the police. Add him to a large drug-lord masquerading as a businessman who is also the boy’s uncle, and leave to stew for 20 years. When nicely done, add a tough-talking cop to this mixture who will supposedly create flavor by making the small boy-turned-criminal suspect that his uncle played a part in his father’s death. Add garnish in the form of a wife/mistress/girlfriend. Try to enjoy.
I suppose that there was potential here for an interesting – albeit unoriginal – study of revenge, but director Ahmed Galal neglected to do so by combining fantastical action sequences with dialogue so dull it made me regret my own ears.
Take one of the film’s major action scenes as an example. In it, film hero Omar (Abdel Aziz) is conducting a drug deal in the desert. The deal is busted by cop Rashad (Ahmed Said Abdel Ghany) who has approximately 240,000 arms-wielding policemen in tow. The inevitable gun battle begins during which all the men die except our hero Omar, of course, who apparently has bullet-proof skin.
Omar spurns the 4×4 jeeps and other fast-moving vehicles and chooses to make his getaway in a simple lorry, which is an unconventional approach but, we realize, is necessary for the action sequences which will ensue.
Omar and his lorry crash through a wall of police cars before he executes a vaguely-spectacular handbrake spin, again into a line of policemen conveniently assembled for this purpose.
The lorry is inevitably badly damaged during the kafuffle but, luckily, it appears to have a self-repairing function which allows Omar to go head-to-head in a game of chicken with Rashad in a moment lacking any suspense whatsoever.
Funnily enough, Rashed, also in his 4×4, loses against Omar and his articulated lorry – fancy that! He swerves off the road and the car spins but Omar emerges intact, clutching his designer sunglasses which almost everyone in the film sports conspicuously.
The dialogue was entirely forgettable and revolved around the usual themes of betrayed trust and good vs. evil, interspersed with particularly annoying exchanges between Omar and his squeeze, played by Maya Nasri. Omar has married Maya in a secret urfi ceremony (a common-law marriage without an official contract) and placed her in a flat where he visits her and carries out domestic pursuits like fixing lamps while Maya moans in a high-pitched wail about wanting to get married officially and have kids.
The unique point of Maya’s character seems to provide a moral conflict for Omar as he “evolves – or rather, makes a 180-degree change overnight.
Omar spends the first half of the film telling Maya that in Egypt “the son of the general becomes a general and the son of the drug dealer becomes a drug dealer and that for this reason he will never reproduce.
Up pops Omar and his sunglasses half an hour later asking Maya’s mother for her daughter’s hand in marriage.
Herein lies the film’s essential flaw: The characters are so two-dimensional that attempting to saddle them with emotion or feeling is like trying to paint the Mona Lisa using crayons.
In fact, when Rashad is blown up in a car bomb I didn’t feel moved in the slightest. My exact feelings were: one down, three to go.
It is perhaps for this reason that the film’s director chose to make Omar spend all but one of the film’s scenes (when he is chopping cucumbers in Maya’s kitchen) furiously smoking cigarettes. In this way, we are supposed to get that – Behold! This man is troubled – particularly given the numerous close-ups of his overflowing ashtrays and endless inhalations.
In one scene, a cigarette mysteriously grows longer during its journey from the ashtray to Omar’s mouth.
A word has to be said about Hassan Hosni and, in particular, the disastrous casting choice which led to an inoffensive light-comedy actor playing a “Godfather -type role.
While Hosni does possess Brando-like jowls, the comparison ends there.
He was completely unsuited to the role, lacking the quiet menace which one associates with a homicidal drug baron and was instead vaguely ridiculous in his false eyebrows.
But then this is a film which contents itself with looking good, with slickly dressed policemen in Italian sunglasses, and jerky camerawork which was de rigueur a couple of years ago but are now just annoying.
I was happy to exit this film but annoyed that its makers had troubled themselves to sandwich together the action scenes (which are the film’s raison d’etre) with insipid and boring dialogue. Had they just pieced together the car chases and shoot-outs back to back, we could have all gone home much earlier.