Very Big Shot review: Very unpredictable, though totally enjoyable, all of the way through to the satisfying finale.
Mir Jean Bou Chaaya mixes Guy Ritchie crime humour with social satire in this very entertaining co-production between Qatar and Lebanon. Kicking off with a street brawl which sees one of three brothers shooting a man dead, Very Big Shot quickly engages its audience.
When the youngest, and most innocent brother Jad takes the blame for the murder, and, due to him being under age, is sent to jail for just five years, the remaining two promise to go legit for his release. Obviously things don’t often go to plan in films like this, and on the day of Jad’s release, eldest brother Ziad is forced to do one last job by transporting a hoard of drugs across the Syrian/ Lebanese border as a personal favour for his old boss. The job goes south, and when Ziad returns to the family owned pizza takeaway, and indeed drug dealing hub, he finds a truck load of drugs which could set them all up for life.
Following a spat with low-life, drug-chugging film producer Charbel, the group realise that they may be able to transport and sell their massive haul of drugs over the border by sealing them in film canisters, which can’t be searched as the ‘film’ inside would be exposed and ruined. For the canisters not to be opened at the border, they would need a permit, and to get a permit, they would need to make a film, so, with the services of Charbel, the group set about putting together a movie about a Christian boy who falls in love with a Muslim girl. The subject matter doesn’t go down too well with locals, and when a religious riot kicks off during the shooting of a particular scene, Ziad and his crew are presented with all-new, very different problems, and indeed opportunities.
Bou Chaaya not only brings a very well-directed, compelling crime drama to screens, but also manages to lace the script with tons of humour and a story which we’re not quite sure which way it is likely to turn next. While the film is indeed humourous and light in places, in others it’s really quite violent and uncompromising, painting a very realistic portrait of a life of crime in modern-day Beirut. Containing many political and religious themes, Very Long Shot often throws a swerve-ball, and by the time we get to the very, very unpredictable ending, we’re left really quite baffled, though thoroughly satisfied.
The three central actors, particularly Alain Saadeh, who plays Ziad, and also co-wrote the script, are fantastic, but it’s the performance of Seth Rogan lookalike Fouad Yammine as Charbel who provides the film’s many laughs as the film producer turned director who is thrown into the arena to direct a motion picture with limited notice. With echoes of Get Shorty, and the crime-capers of Guy Ritchie, Very Long Shot has turned out to be once of the most pleasant surprises at this year’s London Film Festival; a slightly lengthy, drawn out film that may have benefitted from a few cuts here and there, but all in all it’s a really well constructed and enjoyable movie that we’d highly recommend.
Very Big Shot review by Paul Heath, October 2015.
Very Big Shot plays at the 2015 BFI London Film Festival, and is awaiting a UK and US release.