×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Very Big Shot’

An all-too-real fake movie fronts a drug-smuggling plot in this smile-inducing Lebanese comedy.

With:
Alain Saadeh, Fouad Yammine, Tarek Yaacoub, Alexandra Kahwaji, Wissam Fares, Georges Hayeck, Fadi Abi Samra. (Arabic, English, French dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4971824/

If the fake-moviemaking ploy from “Argo” were repurposed to disguise a drug-smuggling caper, it might inspire a comedy like “Very Big Shot,” a slyly amusing feature debut from Lebanese director Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya. Beginning as a hard-boiled crime drama, the movie gradually reveals a more satirical intent, commenting on what it sees as untapped potential in the Lebanese film industry. (The director Georges Nasser, whose 1957 film “Ila Ayn” is said to have been the first feature from Lebanon to screen at Cannes, briefly appears as himself.) Whether this smile-inducing but not gut-busting pic itself lives up to that breakout potential will depend on the varied critical reaction across territories.

The plot centers on Ziad (Alain Saadeh), a Beirut drug dealer; in a rough-hewn prologue that starts in medias res, his brother, Jad (Wissam Fares), takes the rap for him after a killing. When Jad is released five years later, Ziad wants to leave behind their lifestyle to open a restaurant with him, an idea that has Jad less than enthused. Meanwhile, a botched drug-transport run likely intended as a setup has left Ziad with a stash of the amphetamine Captagon. It would be enough to set them up comfortably, if only Ziad had a way of transporting it.

Inspiration arrives in the form of Charbel (Fouad Yammine), a filmmaker who regularly buys cocaine from the family’s pizza-delivery joint. In an early scene, Charbel complains that Lebanon’s movie industry has “many talents, but only few opportunities to explore.” (“Name one actor here that can be compared to Sylvester Stallone,” a tablemate scoffs.) Ziad catches a glimpse of Charbel’s latest documentary and, from it, learns of an Italian production company that purportedly attempted to smuggle drugs in film canisters. When Ziad gives it a shot, he discovers that he needs a permit to avoid a scan.

And so “Very Big Shot” becomes a movie about the making of a movie, with Ziad funding Charbel’s passion-project screenplay as a front. All of the filmmaking work is designed to ensure that their deception raises as few suspicions as possible, Ziad insists, though Bou Chaaya and Saadeh (a fierce, deadpan presence who also co-wrote) make comic hay out of continually raising the shoot’s stakes and professionalism.

Drawing on his enforcement skills, Ziad warms to the role of a hardass producer, mandating casting and script changes that, a la “Bullets Over Broadway,” may actually be improvements. The awkward complications — the film at one point stars Charbel’s unfaithful wife (Alexandra Kahwaji) and Ziad’s other brother, Joe (Tarek Yaacoub), her lover, as a couple — provide “Very Big Shot” with most of its funniest moments.

Somewhat awkwardly proportioned, “Very Big Shot” eventually broadens its satirical aims to encompass violence and politics in Lebanon. (The provocative final note, as abrupt as the opening, may have a specific local resonance that doesn’t quite play abroad.) Drab, desaturated visuals hint at a work of harsh realism — a bit of misdirection, considering the movie’s ultimate goals. By contrast, Bou Chaaya leans too heavily on a repetitive, jaunty score by Michel Elefterides.

Film Review: 'Very Big Shot'

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Discovery), Sept. 12, 2015. (Also in London Film Festival.) Running time: 108 MIN. (Original title: "Film Kteer Kbeer")

Production: (Lebanon-Qatar) A Kabreet Prods. presentation, in association with Elefteriades, Lilapost and LBC Intl., with the support of SuppAr — the Arab Art Support Group and Doha Film Institute. (International sales: Be for Films, Brussels.) Produced by Lucien Bou Chaaya, Christian Bou Chaaya, Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya. Executive producer, Christian Bou Chaaya.

Crew: Directed by Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya. Screenplay, Bou Chaaya, Alain Saadeh. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Fadi Kassem; editors, Bou Chaaya, Simon El Habre; music, Michel Elefterides; art directors, Issa Kandil, Maia El Khoury; costume designers, Bashar Assaf, Lara Mae Khamis; sound, Niels Barletta, Ioannis Giannakopoulos, Cedric Kayem; re-recording mixer, Niels Barletta; assistant re-recording mixer, Carolina Santana; visual effects, Emilio Kheir, Daniella Sfeir, Bechara Nicolas; line producers, Ginger Beirut Prods., Abla Khoury, Lara Karam; assistant director, Wael Deeb; casting, Elie Njeim.

With: Alain Saadeh, Fouad Yammine, Tarek Yaacoub, Alexandra Kahwaji, Wissam Fares, Georges Hayeck, Fadi Abi Samra. (Arabic, English, French dialogue)

More Film

  • BRAZILIAN FLAGFRENCH OPEN TENNIS, PARIS, FRANCE

    Brazil’s Ancine Freezes Incentives, Threatening Film-TV Industry Paralysis

    Brazil’s Ancine agency, its foremost public-sector source of film funding, has frozen all of its incentive programs, potentially near paralyzing new production in Latin America’s biggest film-TV industry. The dramatic decision, which has left Brazil’s industry is a state of shock and intense fear for its future, comes as it has taken further hits. In [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez

    Jennifer Lopez Reteams With STXfilms on Romantic-Comedy Co-Starring Owen Wilson

    Jennifer Lopez is reteaming with STXfilms on the upcoming romantic-comedy “Marry Me.” Kat Coiro is directing the film and Owen Wilson is in final negotiations to join the pic, which will likely shoot this fall. The script was written by John Rogers and Tami Sagher, with a rewrite by Harper Dill. Lopez and Wilson both [...]

  • Steve Golin The Revenant Spotlight Producer

    Steve Golin, Prolific Producer and Founder of Anonymous Content, Dies at 64

    Steve Golin, an Oscar-winning producer who was founder and CEO of Anonymous Content, died Sunday in Los Angeles of cancer. He was 64. Golin was a pioneer in blending the business of talent management with production. Anonymous Content, which Golin founded in 1999, worked with a stable of big name artists such as Steven Soderbergh, [...]

  • Kelly McCormick David Leitch

    'Hobbs & Shaw' Director David Leitch, Kelly McCormick Sign First-Look Deal With Universal (EXCLUSIVE)

    Universal Pictures is signing David Leitch, his longtime producing partner, Kelly McCormick and their recently founded 87North Production banner to a first-look production deal. “David and Kelly have established themselves as a distinctive, stylish filmmaking team who can do it all, from contained thrillers to franchise tentpoles,” said Universal’s president Peter Cramer. “We are confident [...]

  • Still from cannes competition film "Parasite"

    Cannes: Bong Joon-ho Says ‘Parasite’ Is Too Local to Win Competition

    Having been partially responsible for the Netflix fall out with the Cannes Film Festival, “Okja” and “Snowpiercer” director Bong Joon-ho returns to Cannes competition this year with conventionally- financed “Parasite.” But the Korean-language film is a tragicomedy that Bong says may be too nuanced for the festival. “Cannes always makes me feel excited, fresh, and [...]

  • Summer Box Office: 'Avengers: Endgame,' 'Lion

    Summer Box Office: Five Weekends to Watch

    Popcorn season is upon us, and it’ll be up to comic-book heroes, a wise-cracking genie, and a lion who would be king to ensure movie theaters are still the hottest place to spend the summer. Last summer, blockbusters like “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” Ocean’s 8,” and “The Meg” drove moviegoers to their [...]

  • Critics Week

    Cannes Critics’ Week Unveils Its Lineup

    Lorcan Finnegan’s science-fiction thriller “Vivarium” with Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots, Jérémy Clapin’s fantasy-filled animated feature “I Lost My Body,” and Hlynur Pálmason’s Icelandic drama “A White, White Day” are among the 11 films set to compete at Critics’ Week, the section dedicated to first and second films that runs parallel with the Cannes Film [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content