Valley of the Wolves: Iraq
aka Kurtlar vadisi – Irak
Necati Sasmaz as Polat Alemdar
Billy Zane as Sam William Marshall
Ghassan Massoud as Sheikh Abdurrahman Halis Karuki
Gürkan Uygun as Memati Bas
Bergüzar Korel as Leyla
Kenan Çoban as Abdülhey Çoban
Erhan Ufak as Erhan Ufak
Diego Serrano as Dante, Sam’s assistant (aka Fauxhawk)
Gary Busey as Doctor
Directed by Serdar Akar
Now THIS is a controversial film!! It’s very existence lead to a flurry of fury on the blogosphere, which quickly sped to the TV pundits looking for things to scream about. The movie became super-hyped for three reasons: The US is portrayed as villains, a Jewish doctor steals organs, and actual American actors are involved. This quickly gained the film notoriety in the US, however it was already generating a huge buzz in Turkey. Besides being the most expensive Turkish movie ever made (though that’s kind of like being the tallest midget), it was a follow-up to one of the most popular TV programs in Turkey, Valley of the Wolves (Kurtlar vadisi), a Turkish drama about undercover cops in the mafia (which had notable American Guest Stars Sharon Stone and Andy Garcia.) It was confusing in the US press at the time what the connection actually was, but it turns out several of the main characters then make their way to Iraq to deal with insolent Americans. Make no mistake, the “Americans” in this film are a big pack of bad. Think of it as Muslim’s revenge for film after film with Muslim villains, such as True Lies and Midnight Express (which had a whole prison of Turkish horrors.)
American actors Billy Zane and Gary Busey are in this film. Zane stars as the villain Sam William Marshall, who dresses like he was on the way to be a villain in an Indiana Jones film who thinks he’s a Bond villain. As the main evil character, he helps organize the Americans’ in their shenanigans in Iraq, from putting Turkish troops in hoods to pumping hot lead into wedding parties. Gary Busey plays the most over the top character (well, of those too, there’s another American who’s even crazier!), a Jewish doctor who spends the movie removing organs from healthy innocent Iraqis picked up in raiding parties, for quick delivery to New York, Israel, and other places where Jewish people are. Busey’s concern for his victims exists only because he wants them alive when he chops them open. Several scenes happen where he’s yelling at people about the mistreatment of the captives, but it turns out only so he can have better victims. One may wonder why these two Americans are playing such ridiculous roles. Well, Billy Zane is hot of BloodRayne, while Busey actually moved up from work such as Gingerdead Man. Regardless, these controversial roles could backfire on them, but neither actor is such a box office draw that their name will decline sales. Most of their films are either direct to video, or should be. Turkish actor Necati Sasmaz is Polat Alemdar, the hero of Valley of the Wolves TV show. Originally, he was planning to move to the US< but his flight on September 11th ended up being canceled for obvious reasons, so he stayed in Turkey and then became a huge star. Ghassan Massoud plays the Sheikh Abdurrahman Halis Karuki, and is probably best know for playing Saladin in Kingdom of Heaven.
The film itself presents several ideas, and is more complicated than simply a hit piece against America. In fact, the film seems to take a decidedly anti-violence tone. Several scenes attack radical Muslims just as other attack American occupiers. In the recap, we shall address such themes when they pop up, as well as trying to give an overall picture of what is going on. The film is very long, around two hours, and is full of incidents both based on reality and far from the realm of fiction. Well, we won’t get anywhere rattling on about the film, let’s experience it…
We start out on July 4th, 2003. We know that because that is the day of the infamous “Hood Event.” Soldiers from the United States Army’s 173d Airborne Brigade raided a safe house in the Kurdish-held Iraqi city of Sulaymaniyah. They claimed they were acting on an intelligence tip that there were individuals in the safe house plotting to assassinate the Iraqi-Kurdish governor of the province of Kirkuk. What they found instead were a group of Turkish special forces, including a colonel and two majors, whom they promptly arrested. The Turkish military immediately threatened retaliatory measures, but things were averted. More information can be found here. This was a big deal to Turkey, as they are a proud people, and General Hilmi Ozkok, Chief of Staff of the Turkish Army, declared that the hood event had caused a “crisis of confidence” between the US and Turkey. It is so ingrained in Turkish psyche that it makes the opening of the movie, and is the deciding factor in the main plot. The film opens as the standoff has just started, with dozens of American troops standing weapons ready aimed at the 11 Turkish men, one of which is on the phone claiming he can take out around half of the Americans and is ready to die with honor. He is denied such a treat, and is forced to surrender. The actors playing the Americans are a few misplaced Yankees, but the vast majority look to be culled from various parts of Europe, as they look just like a low-budget action movie’s evil “Eurotrash” mercenaries would look. It’s eerie. Outside, a Humvee contains Sam Marshall (Billy Zane), who is dressed all in white, probably on his way to a Raiders of the Lost Ark convention. He walks in to discuss with the Turkish commander, who doesn’t want his men embarrassed by the press. Instead, Marshall has them hooded, and paraded in front of the waiting photographers outside. This whole incident is recapped in flashback form by letter writer Suleyman Aslan, who I guess is supposed to be the brother of Polat Alemdar. Suleyman Aslan then takes out his gun, and blows out his own brains. He didn’t even mail the letter! I’m guessing he was upset over the recent raise in stamp prices. 38 cents is crazy, man!
Eight minutes in, we get the opening credits. Then, three men are driving in the Iraqi desert. Well, only one is driving, his name is Abdulhey. His passenger upfront is named Memati, and the man in the back is Polet Alemdar, fresh off his job of busting up the Turkish Mob. Them driving is intercut with shots of a local barber in a village, who explains that “shaving is masculine, and a beard is feminine, because no matter how hard the beard, shaving takes it away!” Muhahaha! Wait, that doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Nor is it very nice. Turkey’s answer to Ice Cube’s Barbershop movies won’t be coming anytime soon. The three heroes in the car are getting stopped at a checkpoint when we have a different intercut, this time something that actually has to do with the plot. A wedding is being prepared, and Leyla the incredibly hot Muslim woman is getting fatherly advice from her adoptive father, Sheikh Abdurrahman Halis Karuki (Ghassan Massoud, who was Saladin in Kingdom of Heaven.) He also gives her a nose ring. Back at the checkpoint, the checkpointers don’t like the fact that the three heroes are Kurdish, so make them get out of the car. Polet keeps talking back, ticking the checkpointers off even more. Polet punches one of the guards and takes his gun, using it on others while Memati stabs another checkpointer, and Abdulhey kills yet another by shoving his head through a car window. I think he was supposed to have sliced his neck on parts of the glass, but they don’t show us. The three then get back in the car and continue on their way. Turkish heroes are sometimes antiheroes, so something like this is not unexpected. An American film would have probably made the checkpointers bigger jerks.
The bride Leyla gets a gift from her future husband, a 1000 year old knife passed down for generations in his family. She shows it off to her girls, all of who are unmarried, and one remarks “Since when do men give real gifts to women?” Well, complete culture difference there! The fact that Leyla’s groom loves her much more than the average man just goes to show that he’ll be dead in a few minutes. Sorry, buddy, but don’t step into any movie clichés if you want to live in an action/revenge movie! The wedding party is just getting started! What with the drumming, and the line dancing, and the women sitting in a row on the roof clapping along. Outside, a terrible, terrible, TERRIBLE actor playing an American squad leader laments “Nobody opened fire yet!” While his companion replies “Somebody will, you’ll see!” The companion has an I-beard and a Fauxhawk, but for 93/100ths of the film we don’t know his name, despite him being a major bad henchman. We’ll just call him Fauxhawk, even though his real name is Dante. He’s not even supposed to be there, today! But, there is 9 levels of Hell in this movie, too, and many of them are in the acting ability of the American squad leader. His cardboard plank delivery is it’s own Weapon of Mass Destruction. Fauxhawk will be chewing gum the entire film, showing actor Diego Serrano watched the TriStar Godzilla movie where the French agents chewed gum to look like American GIs. It worked there, and it works here, amazingly well. He also passes as an American jerk, as he chews gum in the jerkiest way possible, on purpose. He’s having fun with his role, making the guy as cheesy a villain as possible.
The wedding continues and some guest continue the age old tradition of firing machine guns into the air, thus giving the Americans their opening: “Now they’re Terrorists! Let’s go!” yells Fauxhawk. But first the three Turkish guys arrive at a hotel which is in an entirely different place, and not where the wedding is, as I thought at first. They enter the hotel, go to the restaurant inside, get a table, and inform the waiter that if they don’t get to talk to the manager immediately they will blow up the building! I’ve tried this at a few places, and I still had bad service. I tell you, Polat Alemdar, the correct thing to do is to establish yourself as a big tipper, it works better in getting good service. Kurdish cops come in to arrest the three heroes as well. Back at the wedding, the American troops swarm in, guns drawn. They actually have a black guy or two, despite the obvious look of the actors as African and not African-American. Plus, the African accent on the one that talks gives it away. Kudos to Turkey for making the Americans ethnically diverse, they even give us an Asian Troop later in the film. They point guns at people and make a disturbance asking for IDs, basically getting in the way. Enough of that noise, back at the hotel, the manager arrives, complaining that the three heroes’ plans to bomb the hotel is scaring his customers, pointing to a leaving Hasidic Jew as he speaks. Polet Alemdar has put C4 on all the support struts, and will detonate them in order. He gives a detailed report of the structural damage, which I supposed to show how much of a methodical badass he is. Translation-wise, it just paints him as someone willing to kill many innocent people for some as yet unknown reason, and doesn’t make him appear to be much of a hero. You could say it’s some sort of technique to show how in confusing times, the distinctions between hero and villain are blurred. Except it’s not, it’s Turkish cultural differences where their heroes are more grey, and in response the American Bad Guys will be even more dark when they get going. And they will get going, in just a few seconds…
Back at the wedding, the American Squad Leader who can’t act to save his life demands the people who fired guns be handed over to him. His troops beat up women, arrest random males, and generally make a mess of things being thuggish. Billy Zane as Sam Marshall drives up in a Humvee, wearing his fancy white Indiana Jones villain suit, then drives off, seemingly approving of the attack on the wedding. As some American troops stand around, a small child named Ali sticks a branch up the barrel of one of their guns. The soldier fires as a reflex response, shooting the child Ali dead. This causes all Hell to break loose, as a woman screams “ALI!” and leaps off the roof! Then males with AKs jump out of the woodwork firing their guns, and the Americans just blow anyone away in the general direction of the gunfire, be they armed or innocent civilians. The groom even gets shot in the head in front of his bride, his death long foreshadowed by his gift.
The hotel is evacuated as Polet Alemdar demands the appearance of Sam Marshall before him, because “the boss of the American Soldiers is American Capitalists.” Now we get about all the explanation of what Sam Marshall does in this film. He’s an American Capitalist. That doesn’t explain how he’s in charge of a huge squad of American troops despite not being an ambassador or anything. He’s sort of like a military governor, but not in the military. It’s like if the US invaded Mexico, then put a guy living in Brazil in charge because he took a Spanish class in college, because he has money. Well, with the current bumbling, I wouldn’t be surprised. Okay, I’ll keep the political complaints to a minimum, let’s get back to the film. Polet orders some apple pie, because he heard it’s popular in America. Memati instead orders a Turkish dessert, as he had apple pie before….at McDonalds! McDonalds, the true US Ambassador to the world. And Coca-cola. Well, practically anything corporate. We could have pages and pages of debates over the corporatization of the world, but that’s boring crap and has nothing to do with overacting Americans shooting up wedding parties, so we’ll skip it. Fauxhawk has a bunch of the wedding guests locked up in a metal shipping container on the back of a truck, while the Americans drive back to base. He tells the guy in the cab with him that he did a good job. The other American is an upstanding GI Joe-type, who looks like he needs to hit the gym some. I know military requirements have been laxed, but I hope not that much. Maybe some of that weight is body armor. GI Joe says that the prisoners will suffocate trapped in the container, so Fauxhawk decides to give them some air. Some Air HOLES. By Machine Gunning the container! People inside are blown away, but now they can breathe! Fauxhawk empties a whole clip (of his AK-47, showing he’s not packing American hardware) then reloads a second clip, and empties that as well! His companion GI Joe is appalled, saying he’ll report Fauxhawk. Fauxhawk replies by blowing him away as well! This whole mess is inspired by something the Afghan Northern Alliance did to captured suspected Taliban troops. But now it’s the US doing the dirty deeds. As for the fragging, that’s just to show how evil Fauxhawk is, and thus by extension the whole American operation. Well, the true evil is up soon enough…
Meanwhile, in Abu Ghraib…. (that’s something I thought I’d never write in a movie synopsis!!!) Dr. Jew Jewinstein is operating on captured Iraqis, stealing their kidneys! It’s an urban legend come to life, except it’s a Jewish doctor played by Gary Busey instead of a hot babe, and an Iraqi prison instead of waking up in a bathtub full of ice. Outside, the cargo container arrives, as solders drag out the frightened, screaming, moaning Iraqis. They pull off a good representation of what such a scene would look and sound like. The music also ramps up the evil stanzas, getting all epic. Organs are sent to such cities as Tel Aviv, London, and New York. Dr. Gary Busey yells at Fauxhawk about the horrible conditions of the Iraqi prisoners. Specifically, that many of them are dead, and thus useless to get organs from! Busey is smart enough to not believe Fauxhawk’s lies about how insurgents shot up the container, and tells Fauxhawk “If you don’t stop killing my patients so I can remove their organs properly, I will kill you while you’re sleeping!”
The remnants of the wedding party return to their homes as Marshall arrives at the hotel. He instantly sits down in an empty chair that’s rigged with explosives as well. Now he’s trapped, and has to hear Polet’s demands. Polet Alemdar demands that Tom and his men wear hoods over their heads and leave the hotel like the Turkish troops did, thus getting their pictures in the papers. Now, this seems like a pretty stupid reason to threaten to blow up a hotel and possibly yourself, when you could easily just pay some guys to dress up in hoods and claim they’re American. No one would know. But it’s honor at stake here, I guess. Tom goes on a rant complaining about the Turks, about how the US walks all over them, and how the US doesn’t need them anymore. He even says the US has been paying for Turkey for 50 years, even for the elastic in their panties! Polet gets sick of the speech and is ready to blow himself up to stop hearing the rancid dialogue, when Marshall stops him. Somehow, Fauxhawk is there as well, despite driving a truck full of prisoners to prison at the exact same time, and leads in a group of school children, who are from a choir that Sam was heading to attend before the bomb crisis. Polat won’t blow up the hotel with the children inside, as that would make him just like Sam Marshall (okay, huh? Blowing up hotels is fine, but if kids inside, not?) Marshall says he’d easily blow up all the kids, and thousands of his own men to get the job done, for he on a mission from God (Sam Marshall is the lost Blues Brother???) to make peace. He says “Peacekeeper is God’s child!” Polet responds: “I don’t have a child like you!” This exchange raises several questions. Firstly, Sam Marshall’s mission or strategy is never laid out in this film, except to divide the different ethnic groups up to take the oil. His mentioning that he’d kill thousands of his men to get his job done is chilling, but maybe they’re trying to paint him as a representation of George W. Bush himself. Also, Polet’s response may be just some translation problem, or is he referring to himself as God? Isn’t that blasphemous in Islam? I know it’s not looked at pretty well in Christianity. It’s just odd, as he usually doesn’t act that arrogant. Polat Alemdar and his men leave, the Americans letting them go, or else they’d blow up Marshall. Sam Marshall keeps the kids in the room (because he’s evil!) while they defuse the bomb. He gets a piano brought over and they sing Ode to Joy while he plays (because he’s evil! Evil people always play the piano!)
Meanwhile, in Abu Ghraib…. (I used it twice now!) A very Gay Drill Sergeant (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell) woodenly tells prisoners they will burn in Hell for being terrorists, as they are stripped and hosed off. Polet and his gang make it to their getaway driver…Islamic Mario Brother!
Meanwhile, in Abu Ghraib…. (Third times the charm!) Lynndie England is grabbing innocent Muslim men to make naked man piles! Darn that Lynndie England!!! You can’t keep a bad apple down! Prisoners are beaten by guards, have barking dogs inches away from them, and horndog Lynndie England manhandles them in the most private of places. I’d want to stay far away from Lynndie England, and I’m sure these guys do as well.
Revenge time is coming, as Leyla wants to suicide bomb the Americans! Sheikh Abdurrahman Halis Karuki sets her straight, telling her that suicide bombing is an abomination, and no one in Islam would do such a thing. It violates Islam twice, first by giving up hope and committing suicide, and secondly by accepting the risk of sacrificing innocents (which is against Islam, despite what crazy fundamentalists say when they’re Jihading over Captain Crush or something.) Sheikh tells her that killing innocents is like killing the whole humanity. People who make suicide bombers recreate Hasan Sabbah’s wickedness. That would be THIS Hasan Sabbah, who lead an evil cabal of deadly assassins in the 11th century. The Shiekh then rolls out the tinfoil, claiming that the enemies desire more suicide bombers, so may help organize them. Now, there is no way the US is organizing suicide bombers, there are plenty of idiot Muslim Fundamentalists for that. It is true that certain factions would want more suicide bombers, as it would justify their persecution of Islam and Muslims. The Sheikh concludes that only Allah can save Muslims.
Fauxhawk informs Sam Marshall about Alemdar and his special force, and his history of cracking the Turkish Mob. Polet Alemdar speaks with the Iraqi leader of the Turkish Iraqis, who tells Polet that the Americans are giving the Kurds the mountains, the Arabs the desert, and keeping the oil to themselves. He also mentions that he’s having a meeting tomorrow in the bazaar, so you know something’s going to happen there. Before the meeting, Dr. Jew Jewenstein talks with Marshall, demanding better treatment for the prisoners….so he can get more organs! That’s the second time they set up this irony. We get it, movie, you don’t like Jews and you’re ironic. Okay. Whatever. Marshall says he’s setting Shiite against Kurd against Turk so it will make Iraq safer. I don’t get that logic, but whatever.
It’s Bazaar meeting time! Polet is there as well, poised on the rooftop ready to snipe. The Americans don’t even bother to have aerial support that would spot Polet in a minute. Polet’s men are in the crowd, as well as Leyla, who is still hot, despite the fact she has to cover all of her face except her eyes. Can we just get a “Boo!” to facecoverings? She’s going to stab Marshall or something if she can, using her dead groom’s knife, but he’s too well guarded. The meeting starts and it’s full of boring meeting stuff, but it’s just Marshall and one leader of each group, so four guys, all complaining. Outside, the Bride Leyla runs into the father of the slain child Ali, who is about to suicide bomb the Americans himself! Leyla can’t convince him to stop, so she starts making herself scarce. Ali’s dad heads up to an American troop who’s played by an Asian actor (diversity++) and Ali’s Dad blows himself up! He kills some US troops, some random bazaar-goers, and injures a LOT of people. It’s a big, bloody mess. We get a nice portrayal of the chaos after such a mess. The Turkish men down below have to start shooting Americans so they don’t get arrested, and Polat is sniping them as well to try to get his guys out of there. So there is now a big shootout between the American survivors and the three Turks. The Americans are suffering from Stormtrooper Syndrome, where they can’t hit the broadside of a barn while all three Turks are crack shots, followed by a rooftop shootout and escape by Polat.
Halfway home now! Sam Marshall complains of the insolence of Iraqis blowing themselves up despite all his hard work to help them while stealing all their resources and killing many thousands of innocent people. Dr. Gary Busey and Sam Marshall have a talk about Jesus, and how all the Muslims are going to Hell. They have a disagreement over Jews vs. Christians, on who is right. Fauxhawk figures out that Polet Alemdar’s men were at the bombsite, so they bring the head of the Turkmen before Sam, and demand to know Polat’s location. The Turkmen head hesitates, and Sam shoots him dead. He then points the gun to his assistant, demanding the same information.
The US forces head to Polat’s hideout, forgetting to put anyone in the back of the building before charging in! Alemdar and his men escape outside, where the Bride Leyla helps them hide in her house. An American troop enters the building; he also studies at the Turkish School of Bad Acting. Classes are held on the street, the first English-speaker to walk by gets an A+. Bad Actor informs Leyla that “the women kill Arabian men,” then has to go, despite looking leeringly at Leyla. Okay….at least he didn’t go all rapist on her. After the troops are gone, the characters talk, but the Bride Leyla won’t tell Polet her name until he aides her like how she aided him. But he’s figured it out by the next scene, as he’s addressing her by it. Hmmmmmmmmm……………..
Next up we get an odd prayer to God by Sam Marshall, which basically proves he’s a religious fanatic. Sam then goes on some supply distribution errands, giving things to the Iraqis. Some of the Iraqis are grateful enough they announce they are giving Sam a gift, a piano that used to be housed in one of Saddam’s palaces. Following this, we have some more religious stuff, but it’s Islam this time, as the Muslims are praying. Inside the Mosque, they seem to be forming some sort of circle to chant in while moving in step, and a drum is beat in the background. Seriously, it looked like in a musical right before they were to belt out a few verses.
After some more character development with Leyla, who explains she was an orphan the Sheikh took in, the Turkish Team jumps onto the train that is shipping the piano gift. What could they be doing? I wonder…. Sam Marshall decides the Sheikh has done enough good, and must be eliminated, as his morals conflicts with the current plan of making the biggest mess possible in Iraq. Well, that’s not the reason he gives, but it seems to be the goal. Sam is mad at the Sheikh’s influence by being such a respected man. Even the terrorists respect him, so Sam reasons he’s collaborating, so orders his arrest. His Kurdish allies try to talk him out of it, and then refuse to help arrest the Sheikh. The Sheikh is even said to be descended from the Prophet. So Fauxhawk is sent to arrest him.
The arrest will have to wait a bit, as Sheikh Abdurrahman Halis Karuki is out now. He’s walking around, then arrives at a hideout just as some masked terrorists are videotaping, preparing to cut off the head of a captive American journalist. The Sheikh just walks in, and gives the terrorists a stare, and they back down. The Sheikh then reads them the riot act, shaming them for being so unlawful. He’s like an angry father on steroids! He tells them the Prophet never did such acts, that it’s wrong, and even if the American is evil, so what? You shouldn’t be evil as well. The Sheikh even takes the sword from the lead terrorist, and gives it to the American, telling him to behead the terrorist! The American refuses, since he’s just a simple journalist, and leaves with his life.
Back at the base, Sam Marshall is about to play the bomb-laden piano when he’s distracted by construction workers. Instead of having the bomb wired so that when an individual key is pressed, it explodes, thus giving an explosive finale to Sam’s favorite song, it will instead explode if any key is pressed. The former is such a better idea, as it’s more evil mastermind, but, alas, not the case. Sam’s going outside to be a jerk and yell at construction people saves his life, as papers drop down on the piano from the breeze, and the building explodes. At first it looks like Sam may be dead, as flags are lowered to half mast, and Fauxhawk menacingly puts a gun to the head of a three-year-old crying Turkish boy.
The Turkish heroes think it worked, and go to make a stop at the Sheikh’s mosque before escaping the country. Polat Alemdar talks with an old man who looks and dresses like Papa Smurf, but then the American’s attack! Sam Marshall is still alive, with a small bandage on his hand for his trouble. He’s personally leading this assult, telling the team to burn the whole village down to get to the Turkish team. I will note that one of the attacking Americans has a full Mohawk. Papa Smurf is sadly killed in this attack, showing that the director must be a fan of that UNICEF commercial where the Smurfs get bombed back to Hell. Actually, Smurfs are pretty creepy, what with their unnatural blue color and near-identical appearance. Plus they’re 99% male, that’s just depressing. It’s all a socialist plot, with their collective identities and little individuality, except fatcat Papa Smurf living large in his expensive red suit. Red for COMMUNISM!! Screw the Smurfs!
Oh, wait, the movie. Sorry. The firefight continues, which is the four Turkish guys against a bunch of Americans. Sam is forced to leave his vehicle, and is fighting on foot with the rest of his men. This allows the rest of the Turkish characters to see that he is alive. The Turkish team manages to kill quite a number of Americans, but both Abdulhey and Memati get shot (non-fatally) defending the front of the mosque, while the Bride Leyla is also wandering around, with her knife drawn. So who will kill Sam? Bride or Polat? Well, firstly, Mohawk makes a daring run on the roof, before the final Turkish team member, Turkish Mario Brother, sees him and shoots him just as Mohawk shoots back. They both hit each other, Mohawks chest wound is fatal, but Turkish Mario Brother’s nasty neck wound manages to give him a slight limp! Leyla prepares to stab Sam. She strikes. She scores a hit directly into the heart of….Fauxhawk!?!?! Sam turns out to be to her right, somewhere she should have seen him get to (and we should have seen as well, what with the camera being in that angle just before then) and he casually shoots her a few times in the chest! Now we are Fauxhawk-less, and Sam just shot the hottest Muslim babe in the universe. Polat Alemdar appears on the roof, and he and Sam both shoot each other. Then Polat falls on Sam, both their guns being knocked away. Sam pulls out a knife, and we get a KNIFE FIGHT!!! Sam swings wildly a few times, though he makes a few scratches on Polat. Polat finally wises up and grabs the ceremonial knife that Leyla was using and now it’s a true KNIFE FIGHT!!! They knife and knife and knife some more, until soon there is more knifing going on than an episode of Iron Chef. The two get into some sort of Saving Private Ryan knife fight position, with Sam on the bottom, who sneers “You’ll never win!” His next word is “Uuurrk!” as it’s also his last word, for Polat just drives the knife right into his chest. Leyla lives long enough to see Sam die, then tells Polat it was nice to know him, and dies as well. All of the Americans are dead, and the Turkish team is left wounded but alive. Polat grabs Leyla’s nose ring, clutching it in his hand. And the movie ends.
But the analysis is just beginning!
This film was instantly labeled as Anti-American by many the second it was announced. Let’s first go over various points and determine if that is true. The film’s villains are Americans, who occupy Iraq to steal the resources at the expense of the people. They are lead by an embodiment of American capitalists, Sam William Marshall, and are assisted by a Jewish Doctor, who steals organs from the poor Iraqi civilians to send to rich buyers overseas in America and Israel. The American troops regularly abuse and kill innocent Iraqis, and even each other. This is not a flattering view of America, to say the least. There are a few things which don’t jibe with a complete Anti-American sentiment. One of the US troops is uncomfortable with the wedding incident, and tries to arrest Fauxhawk for his crimes, though he is shot dead by Fauxhawk. The American journalist is painted as wholly innocent, and refuses to take the right of vengeance when offered. Despite the occupation, the American troops still hand out aid to Iraqis, though there is no real rebuilding of Iraq shown in the movie. One could argue that these are simply added to give the film a cover of grey over it’s dark interior, but the American troops overall seem to be a barrel of bad apples. So is it Anti-American? One difference between films such as True Lies and Die Hard is the Americans represent the American government, not rogue crazies. The US government is portrayed similarly as the Soviets in Red Dawn, which seems to be the best contemporary comparison of the film. The only difference is the heroes aren’t average teens defending their homes, but Turkish super agents out for revenge.
The film does have anti-violence themes, mostly anti-terror. There is the long speech about the evils of suicide bombing, and the Sheikh’s thwarting of the beheading and subsequent lecture to the terrorists. The film says that Islam is a religion of peace, and only wicked people misuse it for justification of hurting innocents (attacking those that hurt you is fine). The film is less heavy handed against misusing the other religions, as there is hardly any good representatives of the Christian Americans, and no counter for the Jews. The one lone American who stands up against the atrocities is shot dead, though the American journalist is not painted as a killer, either. The film’s brief sequences where Christianity and Judaism is talked about results in both of the characters giving an odd view of their religions, something that you might think were your entire education about it gotten from random third party sources. Marshall’s views are spouted by many fundamentalists in America, and some of what Gary Busey’s doctor says is both what some conservative Jews think and what some Christians believe about them. The lack of a moral figure in either of those religions is a glaring problem. The movie’s director, Serdar Akar, has said the film was supposed to promote a dialogue between religions. The main problem is the dialogue will end up being one-sided, due to the film’s lack of exposure in America, and limited exposure in western Christian nations in Europe.
Main criticism is with America’s portrayal as villains. Sam Marshall isn’t just an American commander, he’s a civilian who represents American capitalist interests, basically the theft of the oil resources for the West, and the de-Muslimification of the Middle East in exchange for American consumer culture, aka McDonalds and MTV. The latter part isn’t so much as mentioned but implied with both Marshall’s actions and his words. He’s trying to change Iraq in such a way that the natives are powerless and the Americans can do what they want. Marshall goes angry when the people he has convinced himself he is leading out of darkness into a better life fight back against him. His rage is swift and deadly. It is the “Shock and Awe” that we know all so well. The film’s scriptwriter Bahadir Ozdener has defended the film by saying: “Our film is a sort of political action. Maybe 60 or 70 percent of what happens on screen is factually true. Turkey and America are allies, but Turkey wants to say something to its friend. We want to say the bitter truth. We want to say that this is wrong.” Is 60-70% true? More like 25-35% in my estimation. The gunning of the wedding party wasn’t committed by Americans, but did happen. There is no conspiracy to steal organs, that’s just ridiculous. The incident in the beginning is pretty much true, and caused a major international incident. It doesn’t seem like it would be a huge deal, but it was, and it was insulting to the Turkish troops. The troops in reality were on a convoy with humanitarian aide, which also allowed them to search the Kurdish region for bases belonging to PKK, a separatist group wanting an independent Kurdistan that fought a war with Turkey. The movie altered the events to have the Turkish group in a stable location, and even stated they shared tea with the Americans the day before. The incident caused a “crisis of confidence” between the US and Turkey according to General Hilmi Ozkok, Chief of Staff of the Turkish Army. There was torture problems in Abu Ghraib, and the incidents shown in the film were uncannily similar to what was reported (included the Lynndie England look-alike, naked man piles, and barking dogs.) Civilians have been accidentally killed, but there is no single American guy running things into the ground (in fact, it takes a whole groups of American guys in Washington to run this into the ground, but I digress…)
So, is this movie insulting? I wasn’t insulted. In fact, I found some of the over the top antics hilarious, due to their absurdity. The Americans, especially Fauxhawk, were running around like crazed jackals, and then enters the evil Jewish doctor stealing organs. It’s too over the top to take seriously. The Turkish heroes are perfectly fine with blowing up hotels to get Americans to wear hoods in some sort of honor-revenge, which is an odd motivation for outsiders. Though I can see how it could be used as a propaganda piece, I do not find the film insulting, and would wonder about the thickness of the skin of someone who does. This film is just sauce for the gander, not a direct strike. There are factions out there who hate Islam, who see them all as terrorists, and see any criticism of America as either treason or an act of war. People like that would make a noise about anything, and though they are free to say whatever stupid thing they want, they are losers of the highest order, and it is best to ignore them. Their powers exist only by getting your attention and angering you, shutting them out, and they have no standing. The movie is available on DVD, and can be seen so you can decide for yourself what to think. The novelty of seeing Americans acting as villains in a foreign film is curious enough to warrant at least some interest.
Now, regular readers of the site (all three of you) know that all Turkish films get dumped in the Ugly category, no matter what. This film would qualify even without that rule. The film’s length, and several slow spots result in an average rating. Luckily, now we are done with this political Turkish fare, and can now move on to it’s lighter fluff, such as Turkish Superman.
Rated 5/10 (Dubya, Kidney, Kidney Box, Special Knife, Polat uses the Special Knife)
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