• Rock The Kasbah

    Released By: Universal
    Released On: February 2, 2016
    Director: Barry Levinson
    Cast: Bill Murray, Kate Hudson, Zooey Deschanel, Danny McBride, Scott Caan
    Year: 2015
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Like Wichita in ZOMBIELAND, I am a sucker for Bill Murray doing comedy; his subtle style has absolutely slayed me ever since I was introduced to Greenskeeper Carl Spackler. The 2015 film ROCK THE KASBAH has an interesting-sounding concept...but is a film that seems to be about political turmoil and the oppression of women in war-torn Afghanistan an appropriate vehicle for Murray's deadpan delivery?

    Talent manager Richie Lanz has fallen on hard times, despite a successful past of managing some of the greatest musicians imaginable. Hendrix's performance of the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock? Richie's idea. Stevie Nicks' stage fright has gotten the best of her? Richie is the man to talk to. Hell, he even discovered Madonna back in the day when she was a street performer, singing for change in front of Hamburger Hamlet. But a string of bad luck events and bad decisions has demolished his reputation and his business, to the point that he agrees to represent talentless, tone-deaf singers, living off of the meager cheques of the hopeful. When he's not scraping the bottom of civilization, Richie does what he can to promote Ronnie (Zooey Deschanel), one of his finds who can actually sing; but his range of influence can't get her any further than performing in local dive bars.

    Fortune seems set to shine on Richie and Ronnie during a Meredith Brooks-inspired karaoke set in a trashy bar when a drunken patron wowed by her performance offers Richie a shot at a USO tour with Demi Lovato, entertaining the troops in Afghanistan. Bound by duty to his country...and the promise of a ton of cash...Richie and Ronnie jet off to Kabul, a city rife with police corruption, landmines, and questionable accommodations. Spooked by the entire scene and under the influence of Mexican Quaaludes, Ronnie hooks up with Bombay Brian (Bruce Willis), a very scary mercenary, and splits with Richie's passport, plane ticket, and all of his money. With no currency and no way to get home, Richie is forced to go to work with the "Ammo Kings of Kabul" (Danny McBride and Scott Caan), running weapons to the poppy-growing warlords of Paktia Province. When he hears Pashtun girl Salima Khan secretly singing in a cave in the hills, he becomes convinced that her angelic voice is enough to make her a shoe-in to win first place on Afghan Star, the country's version of American Idol. Throwing caution and local custom to the wind, Richie enlists the help of Bombay Brian, a skilled prostitute named Merci (Kate Hudson), and a disco-loving cabbie to get Salima out of the clutches of her warlord father and into the spotlight of national television in a plot that's so ridiculous it will either work....or get every single one of them murdered.

    As I said, I love Murray doing comedy, and the first two-thirds of Rock The Kasbah delivers the laughs without fail, exactly as they should be. From the intro to the character of Richie Lanz, where he sits placidly during a horrible audition, slowly nodding acceptance, to his insistence that Ronnie cover Meredith Brooks at karaoke night, it's classic Bill Murray right out of the gate, tearing the laughs out of you. Introducing the very dangerous situations found in Kabul further draw out the laughs as Murray responds to threat after threat on his life, and his interaction with the Ammo Kings of Kabul ranks up there with Murray's best. Even by the end of the film, it's apparent that Murray was never the weak link...and there are plenty.

    Rock The Kasbah's main problem point? The idea of the film, the driving force behind the film is so moronic that it's infuriating. And no, I'm not talking about the idea that a woman could appear on national TV in a country that would gladly see her dead for such a transgression; Setara Hussainzada is an Afghan woman who appeared on the very real Afghan Star, and did indeed draw a number of death threats for it. No, it's the whitewashing of such a brutal situation...and no, this is not satire....that appears to be created by somebody who either doesn't care in the least about such events, or is completely unaware of them. Characters deal with arms exchanges at gunpoint and potentially fatal incidents with such sheer idiocy, it's jaw-droppingly bad. Murray entertains a bunch of poppy-growing, gun-toting soldiers by performing "Smoke on the Water" with a local sitar-like instrument. His response to the idea that Salima could be stoned to death in the street for appearing on the show is met with moronic bravado and a "Come on, let's do the right thing!" inspirational speech that could have only come from the mind of an idiot. A standoff between two hostile armed groups? Richie Lanz will go out and wheel and deal, because that's what he does, using his smooth salesman technique. Rock The Kasbah's failing is Writer Mitch Glazer, who has given us a bowl of tripe that doesn't address politics in any real way, but attempts to convince people that they have somehow become more knowledgeable about world issues. It's great to have Bill Murray back in a comedic capacity, but by the time we get to the good guys rolling across the desert to Knockin' On Heaven's Door, the joke is well over.


    Rock The Kasbah rocks onto Universal Blu-ray (with included DVD and hi-def digital download) in an AVC-encoded 2.40:1 transfer that looks as good as any new film should in the format. The detail is fine, and the blacks are where they should be, especially during the night scenes in which the landscape maintains a rock-solid clarity, and there are no issues to speak of. Audio is provided courtesy of an English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track that takes advantage of the sub and surrounds adequately without being overbearing. Dialogue is clear, consistent, and balanced nicely in the soundstage with nary a crackle or pop to be found.

    English, Spanish, and French subtitles are included.

    First up in the extra features are two deleted scenes (2:49) that were wisely left on the cutting room floor, as they would have altered the tone of part of the character development significantly.

    Richie Lanz: The Man and The Music (2:28) is a fake press piece, Behind The Music-type thing that really serves no purpose aside from boasting some impressive participants; among them, Little Steven, Willie Nelson, and Ron Wood.

    Bill Murray Rocks (2:34) is a making-of Featurette that features the actors, Director Barry Levinson, and Writer Mitch Glazer.

    A Trailer reel with eight Universal Previews is also available.

    The Final Word:

    Bill Murray doing comedy is a great thing, but Rock The Kasbah is way too shaky a vehicle to carry it.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!