FILM REVIEW: Afghan Luke
- September 23, 2011 1:49 PM |
- By Eli Glasner
When it was announced Trailer Park Boys director Mike Clattenburg was training his sights on the war in Afghanistan, it suggested a potty-mouth marriage made in heaven. Clattenburg already demonstrated a certain gonzo flair for comedy with his mockumentary chronicles of Bubbles and friends. So who better to step into the political minefield of the Canadian presence in Afghanistan?
But before visions of a Canadian Catch-22 dance before your eyes, a reality check: although the trailers suggest otherwise, Afghan Luke is more a movie about reporting on wars than about war itself. The film starts with Luke (played by Nick Stahl), a journalist following a tip about Canadian snipers allegedly committing war crimes. Surprisingly, Luke's editor doesn't seem impressed, grumbling "Don't give me that J-school crap." But Luke remains determined and talks his tank-obsessed buddy Tom to fund a return to the war zone.
Director Mike Clattenburg (centre) is seen on the on the set of Afghan Luke. (Alliance Films)
Those expecting the gallows humour of M*A*S*H might be surprised when Clattenburg introduces us to a Canadian Forces party palace: a tent packed with dancing girls, drinks, a ridiculous Afghan rapper and an inexplicable cameo -- not exactly ripped-from-the-headlines stuff, all the more surprising considering the source material (An actual war journalist, Patrick Graham, inspired much of the story and is one of the co-writers on the screenplay).
The result is an undercooked comedy filled with cartoonish characters and earnest ideas. As Tom and Luke stumble after a sniper who may be collecting souvenirs from his targets, they meet up with their fixer Mateen (played by Stephen Lobo). Weary of war, Mateen spends much of his time smoking up and zoning out to pop songs.
From the hash-dealing warlords to the good ol' Canadian combatants, the refrain is the same: there is no simple solution to Afghanistan's problems. In one of the more obvious scenes underlining this point, we meet a plumber from Brooklyn who suggests better toilets would save more lives than soldiers.
It should be said, however, given the constraints of a Canadian budget, Clattenburg does a nice job recreating the Afghan countryside with a mix of Nova Scotia and the B.C. Interior locations.
It's all commendable, but for those hoping for a film that takes aim at the true cost of combat, Afghan Luke misses the target. What begins with the provocative image of a gun engraved with a maple leaf devolves into comedic kidnappers and goat polo. Afghan Luke truly loses its nerve when its crusading journo is forced into joining forces with the sniper in question when they come under attack -- the cop-out robs Luke of his independence and the film of its firepower.
RATING: Two spent ammo shells out of five.
Nick Stahl (left), Nicolas Wright (centre) and Stephen Lobo appear in a scene from Afghan Luke. (Alliance Films )
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