Finding the Best of the Worst Part 2: Rock the Kasbah

Nick Rutigliano ’18
Guest Columnist

I was having a very enjoyable Sunday. I spent most of the unseasonably idyllic seventy-degree afternoon with some good friends in Gordonsville, VA eating approximately ten pounds of barbecue at The Barbecue Exchange’s Seventh Annual Porkapolooza. I went bowling afterwards, and I even managed to roll better than my decidedly mediocre and inconsistent standard. I knew that I would have to sit through some pretty awful films during this little experiment of mine (reminder, I am only watching/reviewing movies on Netflix with a 20% or lower rating on Rotten Tomatoes). Regardless, I wanted to end this otherwise pleasant Sunday on a good note. This week, I really wanted to find a diamond in the rough. Rock the Kasbah (2015) seemed like it could have some potential, despite its 9% critic score. I also vaguely remembered seeing a preview for it at some point with Bill Murray singing “Smoke on the Water,” and that made me chuckle. With Murray as the lead actor and Bruce Willis, Kate Hudson, and Danny McBride having prominent roles, I thought there was a decent chance that maybe – just maybe – the critics got this one wrong.

Bill Murray ‘s smug mug can’t salvage this rotten tomato. Photo courtesywww.splendid-film.de

Bill Murray ‘s smug mug can’t salvage this rotten tomato.
Photo courtesywww.splendid-film.de

Nope. The critics were right. This movie is terrible. 

Bill Murray plays Richie Lanz, an aging and failing music talent representative that lands an opportunity to take one of his singers, Ronnie (Deschanel), on a USO tour in Afghanistan. Ronnie is less than pleased with the plan. Shortly after arriving, Ronnie takes Richie’s money and passport and flees the country, and thus Deschanel is also to escape this movie early on. Richie then gets tangled up with international arms dealers (Scott Caan and Danny McBride) and agrees to help them out so he can get money and a passport. This leads him to discover that a young Pashtun girl in a village has a beautiful singing voice, and Richie then devotes his efforts and helping her win Afghan Star – Afghanistan’s version of American Idol. Oh, and along the way he meets a prostitute (Hudson) and mercenary (Willis) that both help and hurt his quest in various ways. 

If that summary made it seem like the movie was disjointed, well, it was. There were way too many moving parts, way too few laughs, and a futile attempt at sentimentality in the last half hour of the film. That being said, there were a few highlights. The soundtrack is great, despite not actually including the song “Rock the Casbah” or anything else by The Clash. Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, and others provide a nice classic rock sampling, and renditions of their songs by Murray, Deschanel, and Leem Lubany were fun to hear. Speaking of Lubany, she turned in, by far, the strongest performance of the film. Lubany plays Salima Khan – the young girl attempting to break cultural and gender norms by appearing on Afghan Star. She was phenomenal, but was introduced far too late and not featured nearly enough. Her appearance on Afghan Star was ostensibly meant to be the focus of the plot, but the film meanders through strange subplots and side stories for the first half of film. As a result, Lubany’s character’s story feels like a rushed afterthought, despite it being the only captivating element. 

Ultimately, the lack of focus throughout the first half of the film is what does the film in. I just didn’t care about what was going on. Murray provides a characteristic deadpan performance that is sporadically effective for comedic effect, but also renders him a completely unsympathetic character. The guy is literally stranded in Afghanistan with no money or passport. He’s inexplicably apathetic through most of the weird developments prior to meeting Salima. It just wasn’t entertaining, and I found it incredibly difficult to pay attention. It might have been because I was still busy digesting all of that sweet, sweet barbecue from Porkopolooza, but I digress.

This film isn’t exciting enough to be an action movie and it isn’t funny enough to be a comedy. But worst of all, the actual portion of the plot dedicated to Salima and her attempt to win Afghan Star is too rushed and undeveloped to save the rest of the convoluted but uninteresting story. This isn’t like Yoga Hosers (my first reviewed film) where you could go in with low expectations and get some cheap laughs. All in all, not a great end to an otherwise great Sunday. That being said, nothing could have fully ruined the experience of Porkopolooza. Maybe I should have just written about that instead. 

Tomatometer: 9%
Audience Score: 28%
Nick Score: I guess I’ll just go with 9% as well. 

Nick can be reached at

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mnr3a@virginia.edu