Ibrahim El Abyad–Ahmed Sakka’s latest action/violence flick–has rendered strong but pretty uniform reactions. Despite a great acting job on Sakka and Amr Waked’s part, and a particularly sinister Mahmoud Abdel Aziz (Zarzour)– the constant smattering of blood across the screen only takes away from the plot rather than adding to it. It begins and ends with death (of course) – and is speckled with well directed chase scenes reminiscent of last year’s Slum Dog Millionaire – roof tops and colors and dirt streets, alleyways – everything transforms into an artistic music video with strong flavorful music almost egging the young boy on.
Two young men, Sakka (Ibrahim) and Waked (Ashry), are small time drug dealers and criminals in one of the Cairo slums and are sidelined and stolen from by one of the rival gangs. In a typically Sakka-bold manner, he heads out to right the wrong and in the process, kills approximately 30 people in a scene more fitting to the movie 300. With one small knife and a pile of bravery, he fends off an enormous ball and chain man (300 again?) and a number of other sinister looking gang members.
Of course, Mahmoud Abdel Aziz respects the honor in his ‘one-man-in-search-of-justice’ attack and in a garbled conversation of drug dealing street slang, offers him and Waked a job. Now Waked mentioned before and it becomes apparent that Sakka grew up in this neighborhood (although Mahmoud Abdel Aziz and his band of misfits do not recognize him at all) and he passes by his old sweetheart, Hend Sabry (aptly named Horreya).
Hend’s character is strong, feisty and a little loud but a jewel in the rough – he eyes full of the both the fire of defiance and that of passion. Unbecoming of such character, she follows Ibrahim without recognizing her childhood friend and plans to meet with him later. (Ah, Sakka… so charming.)
And so the story begins… the plot is interesting, although at the pit of your stomach, you feel that your sympathy for the two men will not be satisfied with a happy ending. Although Waked is consistent in his acting ability, you are constantly nervous about his character’s erratic behavior and the trouble it will get them into. What is, though, inconsistent, is the story between Sakka and Sabry. Despite a history that should have been known to both – a history that drove Sakka from the area – Sabry seems totally unaware that his mother and her gang killed his father and that he then killed Sabry’s father. His treatment of her brother – a young man with Down’s Syndrome – is also inconsistent with the hero Sakka is meant to be. Sakka is even surprised to find that Sabry’s mother is the treacherous Sawsan Badr who, as usual, appears ominous and unrelenting in her decisiveness.
It is apparent that the ‘back story’ here is slightly under developed. It seems that if Sakka and Sabry were kept from the stories about each other’s families, there must be a concrete way in which this was done. I understand that it would cause a whole other slew of plot problems for them to fall in love when they already know that her mother killed his father and that he killed her father back but I was not convinced that this news could have passed them, or anyone, by.
CAUTION: SPOILER AHEAD!! ONLY READ ON IF YOU WANT TO KNOW THE END
On a crime occupation level, Sakka gets arrested twice and eventually comes out and ruins his own life by himself. It almost seems as if the Sabry/Sakka love affair, the Sakka/Waked friendship and the audience/Sakka relationship are tainted by a Sakka that does not live up to their expectations. Granted, the public expects that like Tito and Harb Italia, Sakka’s character will be one trying to get out of what was previously a life of crime. Here Sakka’s character has no interest in doing so (perhaps more realistic) but this negatively affects the audience’s attachment to him and therefore, their interest in his well being at the end of the movie.
It also seems to have affected the writer’s attachment to him – as he walks out with no proof of long standing love except some oddly large and bulky necklace from his mother. Sabry marries Abdel Aziz (yeah, why?) and Waked rats him out to keep face about trying to sleep with Sabry. Then Sabry gets caught with the necklace (on!) and Abdel Aziz tells her he wants to teach Sakka a little lesson (she believes that?) and then, for a finale, beats him, cuts him up and sets him on fire!
The movie is not a complete flop. The story is good and much of the cinematography is really, seriously impressive. The only problem seems to lie in an unusually large pool of unnecessarily spilt blood and a set of characters with what seems to be a very weak background. Even Waked, whose performance stands out in this movie, doesn’t really have a reason to be who he is – it seems it is Waked’s own talent that picked up the character and filled it through. Sakka was left with a more difficult task – trying to come out the hero in a movie where he lies, sells drugs, does drugs, goes to jail, beats up handicapped children and gets easily duped by his friend.