Rock the Kasbah
Direction: Barry Levinson
Actors: Bill Murray, Leem Lubany
The first collaboration between the veteran Oscar-winning filmmaker Barry Levinson (Rain Man) and legendary comedian Bill Murray yields a leaden political satire that doesn’t measure up to one’s great expectations.
Despite being culled from the true-life experiences of Setara Hussainzadi, the first Afghan woman who sang and danced on a homegrown television talent show, Rock feels too much like a narrative fabrication.
The focus is primarily on a louche California-based rock-music manager (Murray) who gets stranded in Kabul with no money or passport. Unfazed, the down on-his-luck promoter decides to encourage a Pashtun teenager (Lubany) in her bid to win Afghan Star, her country’s equivalent of American Idol.
Among the colourful characters the talent scout encounters, count a couple of arms dealers, a skimpily clad prostitute (Kate Hudson) with the proverbial heart of gold, and a seemingly out-of-control mercenary (Bruce Willis) who at least provides the wannabe comedy with a few laughs.
The script barely manages to convey a perspective on the fractious ethnic communities from the different regions of the war-ravaged nation. There is a heavy-handed attempt to address the issue of gender inequality, but the feel-good climax doesn’t feel earned. Ultimately, the film offers little of interest, save some exotic locations, cover versions of songs by Yusuf Islam aka Cat Stevens, and the always welcome presence of Bill Murray.