‘Kandahar’ review: Gerard Butler goes to war — against entertainment

“Kandahar,” starring Gerard Butler, is the sort of textureless action thriller that sounds like it’s been musically scored by a subwoofer. 

The bass never stops booming as grizzled men frown and gravely whisper about matters of the utmost seriousness, and a simple race-against-time story is tied into impossibly confusing knots. 

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Running time: 120 minutes. <br>Rated R (violence and language). In theaters.

Director Ric Roman Waugh’s drab film fumbles and grumbles through Iran, the United Arab Emirates and eventually Afghanistan as the hunt for CIA agent Tom Harris (Butler) intensifies. 

“Kandahar,” to its credit, aspires to be deep.

Geopolitics come up, as does the Taliban’s mangled interpretation of the Quran, along with ISIS and other aftershocks of American wars in the Middle East.

Really, though, it is just another tiresome and impenetrably brooding Gerard Butler movie in which no event seems to matter any more than the next one — and grimaces are mistaken for drama. 

Before ho-hum Harris goes on the run, he is posing as a utility worker in Iran while attempting to destroy a nuclear plant.

Agent Tom Harris (Gerard Butler) and translator Mo (Navid Negahban) race to escape Afghanistan.
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Dangerous job done, he’s a day away from flying home to attend his daughter’s graduation in London, when his identity is revealed — thanks to an intelligence leak to a journalist. 

That reporter is violently captured by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard in her hotel room, and then — in a move that foreshadows the shoddy character development throughout — we get to know next to nothing about her.

In Dubai, Harris is told by his handler (Travis Fimmel) that he will be extracted by plane in Kandahar, Afghanistan, along with local translator Mo (Navid Negahban).

Harris is pursued by an anti-Taliban assassin named Kahil (Ali Fazal)
Harris is pursued by terrorist-hating assassin Kahil (Ali Fazal)
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The duo dash through the desert, pursued by Afghan Special Forces and a motorcycle-riding assassin named Kahil (Ali Fazal). 

Many of the pointed criticisms of the Taliban and terrorist organizations are voiced through Kahil, which is a head-scratching function for a mercenary killer to play.

Butler, all the while, as usual speaks from the back of his throat and furrows his brow — his exclusive expression.

The actor’s consistent, quiet machismo can be spot-on when put to work in the right projects, such as the campy and focused “Greenland,” also directed by Waugh.

Here, however, it’s a downer atop a downer.

The finale of “Kandahar” features a massive explosion. Destruction junkies, don’t be mislead — the effect of that ending and of the entire film is that of a puff of smoke.

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