Sunday, 6 August 2017

International Guerillas (1990)

The central premise of International Guerrillas is astonishing but the end result is insane and so hilariously botched that it is impossible to be offended. Just as importantly, even with a running time not far off three hours, there is rarely a dull moment.

Mustafa, a disillusioned Pakistani police officer and his two small-time crook brothers, put aside their differences in the face of an even greater menace than crime, namely Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses. When their younger sister is killed by the police at an anti-Rushdie demonstration, the trio decide to avenge her and Islam's honour by hunting down and killing Rushdie, helped by a female police officer.

Rushdie, however, is not just a novelist, but also the head of a vast criminal empire, dedicated to two things; firstly building a global chain of casinos, nightclubs and brothels, and secondly wiping out Islam.

Perhaps the overriding lesson of this film is that terrorism is best left to competent professionals rather than enthusiastic amateurs, as it soon becomes apparent that the International Guerrillas are useless. Time after time they botch the job, and constantly have to be bailed out, either by the female police officer, or, at the climax, flying copies of the Koran. And hats off to whoever had the bright idea of them all busting into one of Rushdie's sin palaces dressed in Batman costumes, which, granted, is a step up from their usual disguise of embarrassingly obviously fake beards.

 Rushdie is portrayed as a James Bond style supervillain, with a mega fortress / disco in the Philippines, a Jewish head of security, and an assistant who can tell if people are Muslim just by looking at them. This is a man who is as vicious as he is decadent, as at one point, he threatens to torture to the heroes' mother by forcing her to listen to a talking book of The Satanic Verses.

Throw in rubbish car chases, endless gun battles, repeated crash-zooms, some excruciatingly unfunny comedy and the inevitable song and dance numbers and the whole daft thing rattles along at a good energetic pace, even with a running time of over 160 minutes.

The only place the fun stops and the film becomes genuinely unnerving is when the guerrillas mouth another piece of spittle flecked rhetoric, similar to the sort of hateful bile spouted by Islamist extremists nowadays. Talk of mutilating Rushdie's face until even Satan won't recognise him jars with the goofy tone elsewhere.

Ironically, the real life Rushdie proved to be much more tolerant of the film, as well as living up to his free speech, anti-censorship credentials.  After the BBFC threatened to block the UK release of the film, on the grounds that the film libelled the author, Rushdie personally intervened to persuade them otherwise.