There’s a method to the madness that makes a great chase movie. In the strictest sense, it’s “Get characters from Point A to Point B” and have them avoid the deadly obstacles in between. It’s that gray area of “obstacles” that can muddy the waters a bit. Sometimes there doesn’t even need to be a Point B so long as our heroes are moving and out-maneuvering the villain. The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Mad Max: Fury Road, Apocalypto, Duel, the list of great chase movies is a long one, but even longer is the list of mediocre-to-bad chase movies where the setup is there, but the middle guts never quite come together. Sadlym Gerard Butler and Ric Roman Waugh’s latest adventure Kandahar falls in that latter category. Although I admit the film does have its intense moments.
International man of mystery Tom Harris (Leonidas) just completed a mission posing as a Swiss telecom company wiring in new high-speed internet lines to Iran. His target was to implant a bug into the wiring so the CIA could permanently disrupt a nearby nuclear facility’s capacity to enrich uranium. Mission complete, he’s ready to tackle one more mission and go home, but thanks to a mole in the CIA, reporter Luna Cujai (Nina Toussaint-White) has obtained sensitive documents about the mission. When those details are broadcast across the globe on every major news network, Tom’s cover is blown. In less than forty hours, Tom and his interpreter ‘Mo’ (Navid Negahban) must travel 400 miles to a rescue flight that will be on the ground for less than a minute with every mercenary and assassin hot on their heels.
With Kandahar, I actually ran into two hang-ups. Hang-up one for Kandahar hits early and that has more to do with poor timing. This film is nuts and bolts nearly the same flick as Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant, which I conveniently saw just a couple of days before viewing this film. “Soldier X partners with interpreter to get across country under fire – GO!” Kandahar is “Spy X partners with interpreter to get across country under fire – GO!” So familiarity with another film is hangup number one.
Hang-up number two for me is this film just doesn’t do anything interesting with its time. I hadn’t seen the trailer before going in so I was as cold as could be, but as soon as Gerard Butler’s Tom Harris is revealed (which is pretty much right away), I knew exactly where it was going to go. You could practically have Terry Bradshaw and Troy Aikman play-call the pregame and this screenplay by Mitchel Lafortune wouldn’t deviate a beat.
Through the heaps of familiar plot points, character setups, and action set pieces, I did think the film was entertaining, just not amazing. As I said, Kandahar isn’t going to win points for originality, but I admit I was interested, invested, and ultimately entertained with the venture. The interplay between Butler and Negahban is the biggest strong point of the film and helped it salvage any sense of urgency. I’ll say The Covenant did a better job with the concept, but if you’re aiming for some easy entertainment this should hold your attention. Just don’t expect to remember much when it’s all over.
As far as middling predictable action movies go, Kandahar isn’t the worst or best but still pretty good. I mean, if you want a better version of practically the same story, check out The Covenant. I was hoping this would have been better given Butler’s more recent action output, but this is perfectly serviceable if unmemorable entertainment. On Blu-ray, the film scores a respectable A/V presentation with a nice sharp and clear picture and an engaging audio mix. Bonus features simply don’t even exist. Not a terrible movie by any stretch, but this one didn’t hook me like Plane or other recent Butler outings. Three out of five stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️