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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Film review: Jawab Iteiqal wastes a good story for cheap thrills

Led by Mohamed Ramadan, the action drama fails to hit its target on all fronts

Jawab Iteiqal trailer
Jawab Iteiqal trailer

Out of all the major Egyptian films released as part of this year’s Eid Al Fitr season, the terror drama Jawab Iteiqal is the most intriguing.

With a plot straight from the news headlines, Egyptian action man Mohamed Ramadan flexes his muscles as Khaled Degwy, leader of the armed wing of Egyptian terror group The Brotherhood – not the most subtle nod to real life.

After a series of daring attacks, Khaled suffers a crisis of conscience when his young, naive brother Ahmed

(Mohamed Adel) also wants in on the action. On Khaled’s tail is wily investigator Mohamed Abdul Aziz (Eyad Nassar), who exploits his vulnerability in order to catch his man.

Sometimes a formulaic plotline is a good thing when it acts as a base to explore deeper issues. But writer and director Mohamed Samy is torn between telling a good story and delivering the box-office goods in this one. The end result is a wasted opportunity; a psychological drama with no heft and an action film with no bite.

When it comes to the former, the key dramatic ingredients are there – Khaled is an interesting character who goes against the perception that terrorists are all brainwashed fundamentalists. He understands his actions are morally reprehensible, yet as a former orphan, Khaled is driven by earthier ambitions, such as financial security and honour. Then there is the juxtaposition between Jawab Iteiqal’s two sheikhs – the Brotherhood’s megalomaniac spiritual leader and television personality Mustafa (Sabry Fawaz) and the more congenial and moderate Samaha (Sabry Abdul Mun’im).

In such a hurry to get to the next action sequence, the film steamrolls through dramatic gold mines with the dialogue veering between painful polemics and irritating clichés.

That would have been forgivable if the action was better. Instead, the sequences are technically shoddy – cameras are out of focus and sound effects are mistimed – and the props used in part are laughably fake.

When compared to the high-octane thrills delivered by Egyptian thriller Huroob Ezterari (currently showing in UAE cinemas), such sloppiness is no longer acceptable to regional filmgoers.

Ramadan, 29, has the performance range of British action hero Jason Statham. He offers just two looks: a tight, jaw-clenching smile or a withering glare.

While there is little doubt he has the charisma to lead a full-blown action blockbuster, Jawab Iteiqal just isn’t it. The film disappointed at the Egyptian box office and will likely do the same here.

Jawab Iteiqal is showing in cinemas across the UAE now

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