Monday, July 15, 2013

B-MOVIE REVIEW: "International Guerrillas" (1990)

As a reaction to the controversy surrounding "The Satanic Verses," a bunch of Pakistani filmmakers decided to create a movie in defense of Islam. In the film, Muslim rebels go on an global quest to murder Salman Rushdie, who lives with a Jewish sorceress on an island fortress where he stabs wannabe assassins with scimitars. It's also three hours long. And a musical. 

Back in 1988, Salman Rushdie released a book that was marginally critical of Islam, titled "The Satanic Verses." Needless to say, not a whole lot of hardcore Muslims were fans of the work, with such noteworthy Islamic heads of state as the Ayatollah of Iran and the guy that used to be Cat Stevens calling for Rushdie's assassination shortly after the novel's release.

While some irked Muslims responded by killing the hell out of the book's Japanese translators and lobbing Molotov cocktails at retailers carrying the title, others pursued more artistic ways of telling this Rushdie fella' what-for. Which, of course, brings us to "International Guerrillas," an absolutely indescribable piece of Jihadist propaganda/satire that melds virtually every single genre you can think of into a cinematic ball of insanity.

The Pakistani production, known in its native land as "International Gorillay," is a 1990 movie that's one part Bollywood dance spectacular, one part "Rambo III," one part slapstick comedy and one part religious agitprop. Clocking in at a staggering three hours long, it truly is an "epic" in every sense of the word; an epic that appears to have cost about five dollars to make, but still.

The film begins rather cryptically, with an ancient-looking book prominently displayed in a smoky cavern, while some guy with a menacing voice says some stuff that's all ominous and shit. After that, we have ourselves some particularly grainy aerial shots, which segues into a sequence where Salman Rushdie acolytes toss back some cocktails and talk about ways to destroy Islam.

Next week's meeting to destroy Sikhism is being held at IHOP, by the way.

Anyway, a dude in a cowboy hat drops through a skylight and says that "The Satanic Verses" is part of some grand Western conspiracy to start fires across the Muslim world and, thusly, prevent an Islamic superstate from arising. By the way, throughout the entire sequence, some down right pimp-tastic rock and roll synth music is playing -- as we all know, Eurotrash '80s proto-techno is the ONLY good thing the Great Satan of Western Civilization has granted humanity, clearly.

And from this, we get our first of MANY song and dance numbers, a particularly pointless disco sequence, which has actors for no apparent reason breaking out into occasional spurts of broken English. At this point, I think I should also mention how the audio in the film drops considerably from time-to-time...a technological fault that surely no one would expect out of a 20-year-old VHS recording.

Then, a double agent sporting a bandanna breaks into the soiree, starts spraying WD-40 everywhere and then decides to rush into the still-ongoing disco number and start doing a little song and dance himself. The actress he duets with, I feel I should add, looks JUST LIKE Nelly Furtado...hell, she might be her second cousin or something.

After that, ANOTHER cowboy shows up -- right after the FIRST cowboy blows up a dude with a magical stopwatch. So the cowboys climb atop each other's shoulders and continue the "Stairway To Heaven"-length ballad, culminating with the pseudo cowboys playing the syndicate ringleader's bald noggin like a bongo before everybody hops into the dance. And this leads to a police shootout, which segues into a dramatic, exposition-providing sequence where we learn the cowboys and the police chief are all siblings. Cue some highly awkward political chit-chat about crony capitalism, low-income crime and the pros and cons of living in a police state, and we move on to a montage showing the reaction of various Muslim media outlets to the publication of "The Satanic Verses." Motivated by Rushdie's novel, the cowboy scoundrels decide to give up their life of conning and conniving to snuff out "the biggest crook in the world" instead.

Displaced, homicidal vengeance: it really does make the world go 'round!

Next, Pakistani police forces prepare for an anti-Rushdie demonstration, while a couple of clerics issue a fatwa on the author. There are snipers in the trees at the rally, which, as we should all know by now, means bad things are destined to happen shortly.

A protester said she won't rest until Rushdie's head rolls past her sneakers, and the snipers open fire and a stampede follows suit. This results in a major police shootout and, for some reason, a sudden hurricane.

And so, the dysfunctional family, weeping the loss of an uncle who was killed in the anti-Rushdie stampede, agree to a double fatwa on both Rushdie and the police chief that ordered fire on the crowd. More helicopter footage ensues. Then, we're introduced to Rushdie's hidden island fortress, which is surrounded by frogmen and heavily armed guards like he was living in the first level of "Contra" or something. The author makes his grand debut in the film by LITERALLY slaying four dudes with a scimitar -- because that's OBVIOUSLY the kind of behavior a fella' like Rushdie must be doing on his weekend retreats.

Like all Booker Prize winners, Rushdie slakes upon the blood of true believers daily.

So, after SMELLING THE BLOOD of his slain prey, Rushdie just comes out and says that his primary agenda is the murder of all Muslims on the planet. And also, he's using a magical diva with hypnotic eyes to seduce would-be jihadists and turn them against other extremists. This, naturally, leads to another song and dance number.

Eventually, Rusdhie catches wind of the brothers' plan to snuff him, so he sends a platoon of hired guns to the airport as soon as they touch down. You know, because that's way easier than just blowing up the plane  before they get there or anything like that. The guerrillas, it must be said, also have their own theme song, which is every bit as awesome as you'd assume it to be.

After a lengthy motorcycle chase -- where Rushdie's troops drive motor bikes with rocket launchers attached to them like in "Megaforce" -- two of the guerrillas get captured and strapped to a tree with TNT. The other guerrilla just shows up and rescues them, by throwing a whole shit load of grenades around the place.

What lady could possibly resist a bilingual terrorist rocking Horace Grant goggles?

At this point, we're introduced to the movie's sub-villains, the Sheikh of Dubai -- a cigar-chomping scaredycat with the IQ of a tree stump -- and his equally dim-witted associates. With the full entourage on screen, the total fake-mustache count must be an all-time cinematic record.

A lengthy slapstick sequence ensues, with the guerrillas -- dressed in drag -- trying to seduce the Sheikh into revealing Rushdie's whereabouts. The producers of this film, so it seems, have some REAL slight against Arabians, apparently. Eventually, the guerrillas manage to break into Rushdie's stronghold, while disguised in these real funky get-ups. In come the paramilitary troopers, and here comes Rushdie -- who, for all of the rubles in Russia, looks JUST LIKE the dad from "The Wonder Years." And Rushdie's entrance, of course, can signal but one thing -- another dance sequence, of course.

A huge shoot-out unfurls, with more actors taking dives into swimming pools than in any movie in the history of film. Rushdie is fatally wounded in battle, but wouldn't you know, it wasn't the real Rushdie, but a decoy. THEN the real Rushdie shows up, and it is revealed that the Sheikh was actually a double turncoat the entire time. The guerrillas, instead of being shot dead right then and there, are instead hung from helicopters, which allows our protagonists to make a facile escape.

Slapstick comedy and murderous propaganda: two great tastes that taste great together!

Now it's all out war, with Rushdie commandeering grenades and machine guns and just going all "Gunstar Heroes" all over the place. The guerrillas are  nearly killed by some frogmen, but they are saved by one of their female relatives. Meanwhile, the brothers' aunt back in Pakistan calls the boys up, and concoct a new plan to rub out Rushdie. Dressed as doctors, they confront the Sheikh once more, and subdue him with a giant syringe.

You know that magical diva from earlier? Well, as it turns out, she's Jewish, and willing to lead the guerrillas to Rushdie. A romantic subplot blossoms between the diva and one of the brothers, and another musical sequence follows. By the way, it's a love song (or maybe a song about religious warfare, it's hard to tell sometimes), in which the two take turns shooting live ammunition at each other. I guess "playing hard to get" means something entirely different on the Indian subcontinent, no?

Re: why they call themselves "International Guerrillas." 

And what do you know? The Jew diva LIED and it was all a trick orchestrated by Rushdie! Rushdie enters the fray, where he chases the brothers on a speedboat, all the while firing a rocket launcher -- that makes sci-fi movie stock sounds and has the ability to set water ablaze -- while the same explosion and guy-getting-machine-gunned-and-falling-out-of-his-boat stock footage is used over and over again

This leads to the brothers attempting to sneak into a casino, where numerous Rushdie decoys -- all wearing differently colored suits as the Sheikh counts up the number of Salmans on his fingers -- waltz in. A dance sequence ensues, and then, the brothers make their grand entrance...while wearing BATMAN COSTUMES.

The first still from the upcoming "Justice League" movie, starring Geraldo Rivera as the Caped Crusader.

One of the jihadists tells a Rushdie facsimile that he will mutilate his face so badly "even Satan won't recognize you," which is arguably one of the greatest action movie quips of all-time. A poorly-lit shootout transpires, with Rushdie calling the brothers' aunt in Pakistan after it's all over. Rushdie then kidnaps the aunt when she arrives at the airport, which results in another car chase. At Rushdie's tropical compound, he said he's going to make her listen to the BOOK ON TAPE VERSION of "The Satanic Verse," a punishment that she responds to by praying to Allah for sudden deafness.

Of course, that means its time for our grand finale, with the guerrillas staging an all-out assault on Rushdie's palace. The guerrillas are ultimately captured, with Rushdie all the while taunting their religion. For the sake of irony, he commands the Sheikh to be the one that kills the guerrillas, but SWERVE! The Sheikh turns on Rushdie! So, uh, does that constitute a Pan-Muslim message then?

A not at all hypocritical message, being in a movie about holy warriors on a quest for death and stuff.

The prisoners, who are now all chained on crosses, "Life of Brian" style, begin praying to Allah, which kinda' mutates into another song. Miraculously, images of Mecca and Islamic worships services start blinking in the sky, with the Jewish diva automatically converting once she sees the visions. She dances around the island, like she was in "The Sound of Music" or something, and divine lightning frees the other hostages. And thus, the film's climactic battle sequence doth begin.

It's grenades, bazookas and explosions galore for the final 20 minutes of the movie. While Rushdie barks out commands a the top of his castle, the guerrillas, who now have the ability to hop twenty feet in the air, start swinging from vines and shooting stuff while virtually all of Rushdie's commanders instantaneously convert to Islam.

Outnumbered and outgunned, Rushdie than faces his ultimate demise...not at the hands of the guerrillas or his turncoat guards, but from A GIANT FLYING KORAN THAT ZAPS HIM WITH LIGHTNING. This, you must see in its entirety, folks.

And on that note, the film concludes. In all honesty, I'm not sure if this thing is supposed to be criminally negligent, absurdly hyperbolic agitprop OR the most subversive satire of Muslim extremism ever filmed. There's really no way around it; the film is either a hate-filled, borderline insane work of propaganda -- filled with some of the most delusional politics in the annals of the medium -- OR it's an incredibly sly parody produced by Pakistani intellectuals to demonstrate the murderous absurdity of Islamic fundamentalists.

Politics aside -- a Herculean task, I know -- this movie is guilty pleasure cheese to the nth-most degree. Despite being "Lord of the Rings"-sized in length and loaded with so many superfluous dance and action numbers, it's never really a boring movie at any point. Poorly written, poorly acted and with special effects that must've  cost at least a full dollar to produce, "International Guerrillas" is a monumentally shitty movie that, instead of striving for artistic greatness, fully embraces its own low-budget idiocy. It's over-the-top sensationalism at its best, an unbelievably naive movie that's irresistibly dense and wrong-headed, and makes no apologies for its own blunt stupidity.

The message of the film may be utterly reprehensible, but the cartoonish lengths the makers of the film went to to stamp out said message -- by Bollywood dance numbers and "Rambo"-like action sequences and the creation of a murderous antagonist that blurs the line between defamation and stylization -- makes the film wholly unique, and in spite of its irresponsible nature, thoroughly entertaining from start-to-finish. It's a terrible movie, in almost every individual categorization -- acting, writing, editing, audio, etc. But, all of that awfulness manages to come together in a concrete, holistic package of terrible, which alike heavy bad-movie hitters "The Story of Ricky" and "Crippled Masters," is so lame-brained that you can't help but be entertained by every molecule of celluloid therein.

Two and three quarter stars. Jimbo says check it out. 


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