Rock the Kasbah Review

There are commercials playing for Rock The Kasbah shouting that this film contains Bill Murray’s finest performance. Of the many war crimes associated with the last few decades in Afghanistan, from a strictly rhetorical point of view that one’s up there in terms of egregiousness.

I love Barry Levinson. I’m a huge Homicide: Life on the Street fan, and was even a big fan of his Midnight Madness romp The Bay from 2012. This tripe unfortunately lacks any of the magic of his previous works and comes across as an American Idolized version of Slumdog Millionaire with a war setting substituting poverty porn.  

As for Bill Murray, well, this is more 12:55am SNL than prime time – he’s loud and shouty, and doing his best to be his dishevelled and quirky self, but without the context provided by the likes of a Wes Anderson or Jim Jarmusch it feels like a maudlin cabaret version done by a performer that used to have bite. This is Bill now being Nick singing schmaltzy versions of “Smoke on the Water” rather than playfully making fun of the Nicks of the world.

It’s sad.

There’s DNA here for a film that ‘till now was one of Murray’s worst – the writer of this film, Mitch Glazer, dropped a bomb at TIFF in 2010 by the name of Passion Play, where Mickey Rourke and Megan Fox got up to no good, and Bill plays a high level gangster.  That film was poison, sheer unadulterated crap, making some $4000 at the box office with a $15 million budget.

And yet, thanks to the vagaries of Hollywood, Glazer pushes on, and with his friend Murray they’ve lassoed in Levinson to take them on yet another ride.

The small comfort in Kasbah is that the songs are mostly by Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf Islam), and their Karaoke versions are amiable enough. Still, it’s hard not to be reminded of masterpieces like Harold and Maude once one pulls at Cat’s tail,  so even that element annoys.

Kasbah is crap, an entirely forgettable role for a major comedic talent that often runs hot and cold. When a script has to remind an audience that the catchy title borrowed from a Clash song bears no relation to the central Asian location you know you’re just grasping at straws. An embarrassment for Murray and Levinson, a further nail in the coffin for Glazer, this is one of the more tedious and annoying films of the year, one that illustrates exactly what not to do with a film that uses good music, good location, and maybe even a good narrative hook, only to find it all descend into a quagmire of clichés and contrivances.