5-Word 365 #089 – Afghan Knights

I am really looking forward to this weekend. Tomorrow, I get to watch a kids film that I have been eager to see for quite a while but just never got around to, and then on Saturday I’m off to book my ticket for the first screening of The Avengers. And yes, my undoubtedly glowing review will be here shortly after the credits roll. But before any of that fun stuff, here’s another shit ghost story.

Afghan Knights

Not another Chan/Wilson sequel.

A retired Navy SEAL takes a team back to Afghanistan to search for his fellow officer and brother-in-law that he left behind a year ago. Instead, he finds the ghost of Genghis Khan in a cave. Bad acting ensues.

Sigh. Honestly, after the last few days I’m beginning to run out of new ways to say “this is crap”. Like with Tuesday’s The Traveler, I’m going to guess this was made in Vancouver due to the proliferation of Stargate and Battlestar Galactica alumni among the cast. The ‘Hollywood Name’ this time though is Michael Madsen. From his total screentime, I reckon he did maybe two days work on this thing but his glorified cameo was still enough to get him the biggest space on the poster in front of the actual leading man Steve Bacic, playing ‘Sgt’ Pepper.

For such a seemingly straight-forward story, there are actually three separate plot strands playing out and not one of them really makes any sense. First, Madsen’s CIA spook Cooper hires Pepper to return to Afghanistan for an off-the-books job escorting an Afghan tribal leader across the border to Pakistan. Second, Pepper has his own personal agenda of hunting for his lost brother-in-law Jonathan. Third (and this is my favourite) Cooper has also arranged for Pepper’s team to be joined by ex-SAS man Nash, with the secret plan to recover some artefacts that Cooper stashed in a cave during the mission where Jonathan was lost. These artefacts are Mongol arrows that belonged to Genghis Khan and are said to contain his soul. What this means is that after an hour of alcoholic, PTSD-suffering soldier drama crossed with your bog-standard ‘men on a mission’ movie, shit suddenly gets all kinds of wacky with people on fire and kids with really wide mouths and guys that don’t show up on heat sensors and invisible horses carrying invisible Mongol warriors with really big invisible swords. Actually, reading that back it sounds like it could be quite fun.

It’s not.

Breakfast at the Pepper household. BYO Cornflakes.

Bless Steve Bacic. He really goes for it. He literally throws himself around the screen like a man possessed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone drink as much as he does in this film and still be able to point a rifle, although for a Navy SEAL, he does have very floppy hair (and bringing a hipflask on the mission doesn’t seem entirely kosher either). Michael Madsen just plays Michael Madsen, but former boxer Gary Stretch has kind of a reptilian charm to him as Nash, the sinister SAS man – or, as Pepper puts it: “Is that S-A-S, or A-S-S?” Oh, the hilarity! Everyone else is about what you would expect for a film shot by some dude in his back garden, starring his drunken friends. Wait, that’s not what this is?

I can’t really lay all the blame on the actors. The script is just one tired cliché after another. Credit where it’s due though; there is one small scene that is actually really creepy and unnerving, and there is nothing supernatural about it at all. In a spur in the cave, there are two soldiers and the wife of the Afghan they’ve been escorting. One soldier speaks Farsi and the other doesn’t, and the woman speaks no English. Now you’ve got the soldier telling the woman, as calmly as you like (and in Farsi) that he’s going to use the big knife he’s holding to torture her very slowly and then kill the other soldier, the woman trying to tell the other soldier that he’s in danger and him not understanding, while his mate is feeding him a bullshit translation of what the woman is saying to him. For the only time during the whole movie, I felt a bit of a chill up my spine. Only a bit though.

This is the brightest single image from inside the cave. Except when one dude was on fire, but that doesn’t really count.

Besides the mostly pantomime level acting, one big error was deciding to set half the flick inside a sealed-off cave and then forgetting to take any lights in. For a film to be spooky, we need to be able to see even a bit of what the threat is, but this just smacks of Amateur Hour. The unimaginative camerawork doesn’t help either. And in a novel twist, the film does not subscribe to Hollywood Rule #24; the black guy does not die first. Nope, it’s the gay guy that dies first. The black guy dies second. Now that’s progress.

When my roommate’s boyfriend brought this over, I was warned that it was garbage but I went ahead and sat through it anyway. I did that for you. I just hope you appreciate it.

Go ahead, punk. Make my day.

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