A Eid film

Soha Hesham
Tuesday 16 Apr 2024

Soha Hesham was disappointed in this season’s big-budget production

 

The cinema has always been a popular destination for families and friends during the Eid holiday. For decades, whether for Eid Al-Fitr or Eid Al-Adha, it’s been an Egyptian tradition to head to the movies to see new fare by superstars like Adel Imam, or female competitors of his like Nadia Al-Gendi or Nabila Ebeid. As of the 1990s, Imam often collaborated with screenwriter Wahid Hamed and filmmaker Sherif Arafa to make eagerly awaited landmarks like Terrorism and Kebab (1992), initially a Eid Al-Adha film. Later on a new generation of film stars — Mohamed Heneidi, Ahmed Al-Saqqa, Mohamed Saad, the late Alaa Walieddine, Hani Ramzi and Ahmed Helmy — took over the two-part season with films like Henedi’s Seidi fil Gamaa Al-Amrekeya (An Upper Egyptian at the American University, 1998), directed by Said Hamed or Walieddine’s Al-Nazer (The Principal, 2000), directed by Sherif Arafa.

The latter introduced the character Al-Lemby, who was to launch the career of another star, Mohamed Saad, with an eponymous film by Wael Ihsan in 2000. More recently Eid seasons have had fewer star-driven films, and this year the choice felt especially limited: Aal Mashi (On the Go), starring Ali Rabei, Karim Afifi, Aya Samaha and Salah Abdallah, directed by Mohamed Al-Khebeiri; Eswed Melawen (Coloured Black), starring Ahmed Fathi, Bayoumi Fouad and Rana Raes, directed by Hassan Al-Balasi; and Fasel Min Al-Lahazat Al-Laziza (An Episode of Pleasant Moments), starring Hisham Maged, Hana Al-Zahed and Mohamed Tharwat, directed by directed by Ahmed Al-Gendi. But the film with all the stars is Shekko (Bro), directed by Karim Al-Sobky, who collaborated with superstar Mohamed Ramadan on actions films like Qalb Al-Assad (Lion Heart, 2013) and Al-Diesel (The Diesel, 2018). In 2015 he directed Min Dahr Ragel (Born to be a Man), starring Asser Yassin, Yasmine Raes, Mahmoud Hemeida and Sabri Fawaz. Written by Wessam Sabri, Sheqqo has grossed over LE27 million since its release a little before Eid (LE9 million during the three days of the Eid itself). Inspired by Chuck Hogan’s novel The Price of Thieves, it revolves around four masked friends being chased by a police detective and one woman who can destroy them.

The film is dominated by action sequences that show technical skill, but the screenplay fails to provide substantive support, offering little in the way of story or any level of attention to detail. With no coherent story, impressive action rings hollow. The film revolves around Ismail (Amr Youssef) and Hegazy (Mohamed Mamdouh), two outlaws who, though not biological brothers, grew up together when Ismail was taken in by Hegazy’s parents following his own mother’s disappearance and now, in black masks, undertake seemingly impossible thefts for the benefit of a woman named simply Al-Doctora, or The Doctor (Youssra). No background or context is given, nor are there any motives behind the action. Of which there is plenty, too much, but very little else. It opens rather classically for an action film with Ismail, while Hegazy — who also does the narration — is on the roof holding the rope that keeps him safe, climbing a huge building trying to break through a particular window. The action is constantly paired with humour which barely makes up for the lack of any dramatic or narrative coherence. Everything seems fine until Al-Doctora orders them to bring her the contents of the safe of a very wealthy man named Al-Sawaadi. His house is impossible to break into and the key to the safe is around his own neck, but he has a nurse, Fatma (Dina Al-Sherbini), who can hand it over.

The duo’s ruse of entering the house as pest control personnel works well enough. They meet Fatma and strike her unconscious after obtaining the key, and they perform their task as required. But Ismail, believing Fatma to be dead, visits her the next day and they start a relationship. No rhyme or reason here either: one minute he is killing her, the next they are in love. Meanwhile Al Sawaadi’s son Karam (Abbas Abul-Hassan) ends up taking revenge on Mahrouz (Mohamed Gomaa), the two brothers’ unfaithful friend Mahrouz (Mohamed Gomaa) who attempts to sabotage the operation. There is also Hegazy’s secret wife Fotna (Amina Khalil), a popular nightclub dancer, who seems to serve no dramatic purpose. The ending is even more absurd as it involves the kidnapping of Fatma’s son to force Ismail to bring back an important hard drive that had never been with him and Al-Doctora being threatened by important people due to the loss of this hard disk. That is when Al-Kanny (Ahmed Fahmy) promises Karam to hand over both Hegazy and Ismail, only to help them leave the country and request his money anyway.

 


* A version of this article appears in print in the 18 April, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

 

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