House of horrors

Nahed Nasr , Tuesday 25 Jun 2024

Nahed Nasr saw the latest instalment of the commercial cinema phenomenon.

Sons of Rizk III

 

Sons of Rizk III: The Judge has achieved record box-office revenues, both daily and total, surpassing Eid films by millions. It broke Egyptian box office records by achieving EGP 23 million in one day, and grossed $1.75 million in its first six days in Saudi Arabia.

The film is the third instalment of the popular action-comedy crime film series, directed by Tarek Alarian, and written by Salah El Gehiny. The first part was released in 2015, and the second, Sons of Rizk 2: Earth Lions Are Back, in 2019. However, unlike those two, the third part, which was launched during this year’s Eid Al-Adha season in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf and other Arab countries, received the support of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority and Riyadh Season, in addition to local production bodies including RAW Entertainment in collaboration with Synergy Films, Film Square, and G creations.

According to statements by Turki Al-Sheikh, Chairman of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority, during the film’s opening in Riyadh the Saudi contribution to the film’s production, financially and logistically, exceeded $8 million, which makes it the largest of its kind.

In addition to production support, the film received a huge, unconventional, and perhaps unprecedented, promotional campaign across the Arab world. In addition to traditional advertising posters on the streets and various means of public transportation, television channels, social media platforms, media outlets and websites were also used in innovative ways. The film’s main actors participated in the promotional campaign through their own pages on social media platforms, including actor Ali Sobhi, who joined the cast of the third part in the role of Kori. Ali Sobhi’s dance in the movie turned into a challenge on Instagram and Tik Tok pages. Many social media influencers participated in promoting the film.

The opening of the film in Saudi Arabia was a huge event on Boulevard Riyadh City, broadcast live on various platforms, including the official page of the Riyadh Season, which is an annual state-funded entertainment and sports festival launched in 2019 by the General Entertainment Authority, which starts in October and ends in March and attracts millions of visitors. In addition to its stars, dozens of celebrities, including film and television stars from Egypt and the Arab world, participated in the film’s  opening ceremony which had a huge audience. The promotional campaign also included an advertisement funded by the Entertainment Authority in which three of the most famous Egyptian Premier League club Al Ahly players appeared: The centre-back player Mohamed Abdelmonem, the attacking midfielder Mohamed Magdy Afsha, and the midfielder Emam Ashour, in addition to Marcel Koller, the Swiss head coach of Al Ahly. In the advertisement, while the trio players and their coach are in the cinema to attend Sons of Rizk 3: The Judge, Afsha says he is excited to watch this movie, remembering his winning goal in the CAF Champions League final between Al-Ahly and Zamalek in the 85th minute, when the commentator called him The Judge. In the film’s promotional trailer Afsha jokes “The Judge will definitely be a great movie, but it won’t be more amazing than my own Judge.” rThe advertisement played its required promotional role in sparking traditional online skirmishes between Al-Ahly and Zamalek fans, the largest in number, which certainly was in the interest of promoting the film.

According to Turki Al-Sheikh, the reason for such generous interest in producing a third part of Sons of Rizk is due to it being part of the propaganda for the Riyadh Season, which is already approaching. “We deal with the film primarily as a commercial for the upcoming season. Therefore, a large part of the film was filmed in the last Riyadh Season. We do not look at the box office as  profit. Rather, our goal is for the film, and thus the Riyadh Season, to reach the widest possible audience. It is definitely the best Arab action film of all time.”

However, Al-Sheikh does not deny his broad ambitions to support better known Egyptian films, including the production of another new part, the fourth of Sons of Rizk, and new parts of the popular Egyptian film, whose two parts in 2014 and 2019 achieved widespread and resounding public success, The Blue Elephant, directed by Marwan Hamed and written by Ahmed Mourad. “We have everything that qualifies our films to reach the international level. My ambition is to work on the level of John Wick and Mission Impossible,” Al-Sheikh adds. This means investing in series films that have already achieved mass success and are guaranteed to achieve greater success with larger productions, as is the case with Sons of Rizk III.

The film, whose first part came to light during the Eid Al-Fitr season of 2015, was a pleasant surprise for a wide segment of the audience, especially young people. This made its second part eagerly awaited four years later, in the same season in 2019, taking first place in revenues and audience demand. The largest production ever of Sons of Rizk III, supported by the Saudi Entertainment Authority, contributed to greater dazzle, and the innovative promotional campaign, which is no less huge in cost than the production, contributed to the spread and unprecedented public demand on a vast scale, confirmed by the box office. However, the factors for the film’s success were essentially present since its first part, and an important part of them depended on the magical, enchanting and proven recipe that the film has adopted since its first part.

Most of the events of Sons of Rizk III take place on the streets of Riyadh, during the Riyadh Season. A massive Hollywood chase, bearing the signature of director Tarek Alarian, with dozens of luxury cars, motorcycles, and huge trucks, exciting tours between the corners and sides of Boulevard Riyadh City filled with exciting lights, attractive amusement parks crowded with visitors during the sparkling Riyadh season, and a special appearance by former world boxing champion Tyson Fury. However, the plot and structure remain the signature of Salah El Gehiny, the author of the three parts, in addition to the brilliant appearance of a group of the most popular stars such as Ahmed Ezz, Amr Youssef, Karim Kassem, Mohamed Mamdouh, Asser Yassin, Muhammad Lutfi, Ali Subhi, Nisreen Amin, Iyad Nassar, Asmaa Galal, Ahmed Fahmy, and Karim Abdel Aziz, some of whom have already built a solid relationship with the audience since the first part while others recently joined in the third part, and some of them had aroused the audience’s curiosity with cameos.

At the level of the story, Sons of Rizk is the tale of four brothers from the lower echelons of society who choose to confront the harsh conditions they have experienced since their childhood by resorting to crime, specifically theft. However, they have a sense of humour, and their multi-layered personalities contain touching weaknesses. Most importantly, they have values ​​that they strive to maintain despite everything, including the value of brotherhood, as well as their constant ambition to stop being criminals once they’ve concluded “the big deal”, which never materialises. It is a gang that fails to achieve any kind of wealth, as they return to square one in Sisyphean fashion every time. However, they are so ingenious they can leave a painful mark on all of their most powerful challengers in the crime world: the cruel and powerful thieves, the corrupt officers, and the people of prestige and power who belong to the upper classes. They become examples of popular heroes who arouse sympathy and love that push the audience to forgive their unforgivable sins.

The construction of the characters in Sons of Rizk, especially the main characters, is very lively and dynamic. They are different characters in their strengths and weaknesses, and from these differences situations and relationships develop. Actions and reactions are never separate from the character structure that the audience is familiar with, and therefore changing the actors in some parts does not affect the audience’s connection with them. However, the script maintains the presence of fresh and influential characters in each part, which are also tightly constructed, so that the audience quickly becomes familiar with their actions. The film does not risk creating characters outside the usual and beloved formula in popular films, whether of the clever popular hero or the cartoonish villain, and this is what has made it so popular since its first part. On the other hand, the characters in the film speak without compromise in a harsh language with bold masculine overtones that bring them as close as possible to their reality without sugarcoating it, which, whether you like it or not, is a bonus for a popular film.

The film in all its parts is full of interesting and entertaining adventures that depend not only on passing new places and communicating with new characters, but also on the predicament in which the heroes find themselves and their ability to escape it even if they are empty-handed at the end, as happens every time. Nothing is beyond expectations, but their journey out of the impasse always involves an unexpected bluff, the revelation of which remains a source of excitement and suspense.

The film, in all its parts, is a story within stories, as it uses the simple traditional format of folk story-telling that is deeply rooted in all our memories. The events of the film do not take place in real time, but rather the viewer learns about what happened as part of a story told by one person to another or to others. Each part begins with someone telling the tale of the Sons of Rizk and their new adventure to someone who is usually a new and influential character in the new part. Then, within the story that extends to the end of the film, the characters in it engage in narrating the events to each other, to complete the missing parts in the larger story, in what resembles a collage of stories that complement each other or reveal each other, leading to the revelation of the bluff with which the film ends. Resorting to this simple and primitive technique is what makes the film’s structure attractive.

One of the most important factors for the audience’s attachment to the Sons of Rizk film series is its success in establishing stable traditions, whether in building characters or in plot and narrative, which makes it more like a safe zone full of excitement, entertainment, and suspense without pedantry or even an attempt to break expectations. The journey is like entering the house of horrors in an amusement park like the one featured in Sons of Rizk III: The Judge on Boulevard Riyadh City, where you know in advance that you will exit safely after enjoying the abundance of adrenaline.

 


* A version of this article appears in print in the 27 June, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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