This Bill Murray movie on Netflix is far better than critics would have you believe
Hear us out on this one.
Let's be honest, every day should be officially celebrated as Bill Murray Day but 12 February is more appropriate than most.
In particular, it makes the most sense given that it marks the 25th anniversary of Groundhog Day, one of his greatest roles, in which a cynical weatherman ends up reliving the same day over and over (potentially for 35 years) until he can correct one major flaw in his character.
That does actually sound like a version of the proposed Every Day is Bill Murray Day, albeit an incredibly dark one.
The man has been in numerous masterpieces, from almost every Wes Anderson film to Ghostbusters by way of Caddyshack, Lost in Translation and Broken Flowers. Damn it, he's even played Polonius in Hamlet.
There are however, a few in there that either sank horribly or split opinions in a huge way. We're talking about all of those Garfield flicks, Charlie's Angels and - whether you like it or not - Space Jam.
One of his latter day films that really caused some uproar is the bizarre war comedy, Rock The Kasbah, which has just landed on Netflix. The story of a down-on-his-luck talent agent who decides to reinvent himself by coercing a cocktail bar singer into gigging in Afghanistan during the US invasion, when it was released three years ago the critics went at it with a knife.
And then a few machetes, fully loaded automatic weapons and a flamethrower.
By the time Rotten Tomatoes had pooled together a consensus, it was at 8%, which is only 3% higher than Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2. For a moment though, let's keep in mind that Paddington 2 is one percentage point above even the highest rated Stanley Kubrick movie and get beyond using the aggregate as a sign of greatness.
Make no mistake, Rock The Kasbah is no masterpiece. It is however, far better than anybody gave it credit for at the time and on top of that, it is pretty funny considering how heavy a subject it is.
To put it in as simple a set of terms as I can: Rock The Kasbah was so bat-shit crazy an idea that it put most people off.
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Richie Lanz is a pathetic, compulsive liar with a great name and a supposedly great career in the entertainment industry. By his own account, he has worked with everybody in the music business, from ABBA to Madonna, but when we meet him, he is a depressed man living his life in a motel.
His final shot at success lies in the hands of Ronnie, a demented singer played by Zooey Deschanel. The pair cannot keep it together to stay sober during gigs, they fight and bicker constantly, until it appears as if they can go no further together as colleagues. That is, until Lanz realises that he can make a decent living off Ronnie if he can get her to perform for the troops as part of a USO tour.
Unfortunately, the only opening is in the war-torn city of Kabul in Afghanistan, which leads to several brilliantly hilarious sequences of seeing what happens when the fey and quirky Deschanel finds herself in a place ravaged by improvised explosive devices, constant crossfire and the threat of encountering a jihadi guerrilla.
It becomes too much for poor Ronnie, and she flees with a crazed mercenary (Bruce Willis), stealing Richie's money and passport. Desperate and in one of the most dangerous cities on earth, Richie realises his only way out is to scout for a new talent in among the debris, leading him to a girl with a voice too great not to share with the world.
The only problem is that the desert tribe she belongs to will not permit her to sing, and so Richie has to decide whether to obey their teachings or go for the gold.
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If that sounds like a lot, trust me it is. That is only act one of a story, which sees Murray negotiate his way out of an armed siege, a further sectarian conflict and chase a mysterious prostitute, the latter for no real reason whatsoever.
Based (loosely) on the events surrounding the 2009 documentary, Afghan Star, Rock The Kasbah is a film with a provocative series of moral dilemmas, which certainly makes it worth revisiting, even if the plot meanders (a lot).
While it could have benefited from a good few edits and a slightly punchier set of jokes, Rock The Kasbah is nowhere near as dire an affair as critics might lead you to believe. Its stance towards religious tolerance is one of the main reasons people steered clear of praising it, since it does occasionally make a case for the benefits of the US intervening in foreign affairs.
If you are up for a challenge to your own viewpoint though, and a very weird one at that, this is definitely worth your time. It stands up as a comedy about ideas, even when the gags wear thin.
Rock The Kasbah is streaming on Netflix now.