Spoiler alert: Emad El-Din Aysha does not approve of Saber Google. Not in the least.
Made the mistake of watching Saber Google (2016) starring Mohamed Ragab – whose only real claim to fame was the rip-off comedy El-Khalbous (2015) – and directed by Mohamed Hamdy, the man responsible for such forgetful TV series as Tamaseeth Il-Nil (Crocodiles of the Nile). The scriptwriter – one of them, at any rate – actually has a decent track record behind him: Mohamed Samir Mabrouk, the man responsible for El Nabatshy (2014), Al Qashash (2013), and even Tamer & Shwaaia (2010). But it doesn’t show up here.
The one thing I learnt from watching this is why Laf Wa Dawaran (2016) was such a smash hit. It’s not because it’s worth watching in itself, it’s because, as lacklustre as Laf Wa Dawaran was, it’s still light years ahead of Saber Google!
The main problem with this movie is that it suffers from an identity crisis. Is it as just another pointless grossed out comedy or an action thriller with political overtones? It’s both and neither. Look at the title. You think it’s a techno-thriller about someone like Edward Snowden or Khalid Said only to find it’s the dilapidated story of a petty conman who goes by that name and who only ever gets around to using computers after he hits the big time. (Perhaps he couldn’t afford a tablet before then?) And the heists he conducts are as tediously amateur and technologically unsophisticated as they come. He ends up in prison at one point because he forgets his wallet in a car he was robbing!
This dualism extents throughout. The hero and his crew live in a supposedly down-and-out area but it’s also in Al-Haram (next to the pyramids) and they have an American style wooden fence round their home. But the home itself looks like it’s on the roof of a building. Having the place next to the pyramids may signify patriotism and cultural authenticity – why Mr Saber insists on listening to the Syrian singer Asala (means 'authentic' in Arabic) – but it fails on that accord, too. His sweetheart (Sara Salama) bleaches her hair yellow, and both of them make it big when they smuggle stolen artefact to the outside world. So much for cultural authenticity. Even Saber’s mistress (Nour El Kadeiki), who is supposed to be Lebanese, turns out to be played by a Libyan actress. Egyptian always get foreign girls measured to Egyptian specifications. Why not get an Egyptian to begin with? There are proper Russian-looking Russians girls here too!
Note also that one of Saber’s rival businessmen is played by the foreign-looking Mohamed Marzaban, a man who sells overpriced goods to the public, fomenting inflation. Saber also likes authentically Egyptian food and invests in the country to help the poor and needy, while listening to Frank Sinatra and petting guard dogs. (Boo, hiss). And I suspect the whole movie is a rip-off of the far superior Eddie Murphy movie The Distinguished Gentleman (1992), also about a conman who runs for public office.
Production standards are equally jaundiced since half the time the movie feels like it was produced in somebody’s backyard, then you’re greeted by luxurious hotels and party scenes. Corrupt cops are everywhere, but the only honest cop, played quite convincingly by Ehab Fahmy, is heavy-handed, doesn’t respect due process, and is a deadbeat. (At one point he ends up servicing bigwigs like a lowly security guide). Not much to look forward to democratically-speaking, is there?
Google is a Goner
The ending is inexplicable. Saber gets pulled into politics by certain unnamed bigwigs (boo, hiss) while his domestic life goes to the dogs. He can’t have kid with his wife, not that there’s anything wrong with either of them but their body chemistries don’t match. (Seen that before, in El-Limby 8 Giga). He suspects she is betraying him – having an affair over Facebook – only to discover she’s completely innocent. (See what happens when women get educated, as the stereotype goes). And then they get back together again and he gives up his paranoid, dictatorial ways with her.
So what’s the point? She is, technically, the neglected domestic front that opens up opportunities for foreign intervention, but it just doesn’t follow through here, making it all the more annoying. Saber gets betrayed by his cousin’s wife (Randa El Behiry) – by ‘pure’ coincidence, she has an American education – and patches things up with the guy after having her bumped off. (You’d think he’d come to a tragic end at his cousin’s hands). Saber finally gets nabbed when the deadbeat cop exposes his real identity but is told by his paymasters not to worry, he’s safer on the inside than the outside at this stage in his career – but he’ll eventually get out. Make any sense to you? Has justice triumphed or not?
In short, it’s like watching a giant promo movie for Mohamed Ragab. He insists on doing all the comedy gags, and they hardly ever work. And he does all the action sequences even after Saber becomes a millionaire and can afford bodyguards and hired guns. Ragab’s taste in women is reasonably good, as in El-Khalbous, but at the very least that deeply flawed comedy romp was quite funny and actually had something to say – if unconvincingly.
This is sheer pointlessness. To make matters worse, there are actually some reasonably well written scenes in there. There’s a boardroom meeting scene where Saber tells his cousin that you should always look at yourself in the mirror to search for flaws, and only then can you do good things and fix what’s wrong with you. That scene is actually quite well acted, too. The ‘impression’ you got was that the original script for the movie may have been serious but, once production go started, it got watered down into inanities.
What a crying shame. We’ve become so used to dictatorial stars in Ramadan TV serials, now we’re beginning to put up with them on the silver screen, too. There’s too many good actors and comedians in there who only pop for a scene or two. There’s nothing worse than squandered talent. No, actually, there is something worse – somebody who laughs at his own jokes!