Day 7 then and a slow start for this one. Did I have a hangover? The morning after going to see a ‘participatory opera’ about a pub and visiting said pub? Oh yes. Needless to say a couple of morning screenings went unwatched but I did make it out for a Lebanese caper (not often we can say that) and er… The Lobster. Which Jo already covered on our mammoth Day 6 run and a movie I’m still not overly fussed about. Just the one today then.
Lebanese movies don’t cross our paths very often so as this one was in official competition, it looked like we’d be on to a winner here. And to be fair, it was actually pretty good. Set around a trio of brothers attempting to make ends meet with a combination of pizza and drugs (not necessarily at the same time), Very Big Shot picks up with a tragic event that lands the youngest sibling inside.
Innocent of the crime but light on time already served, youngest brother Jad takes the rap for eldest sibling Ziad when the latter shoots somebody in self defence. Five years’ time later and Jad is welcomed back into the family. Ziad and the middle brother whose name escapes me are running a moderately successful bakery which acts as a nice front for delivering illegal narcotics. Ziad isn’t content with the low level situation though and is soon off to see the big boss (and his hilarious, at least to this western audience, habit of offering whole cucumbers as a snack to guests) in order to secure a more advanced role in the organisation. This doesn’t quite pay off and very soon Ziad finds himself shooting dead two drug traffickers en rout to Erbil, stealing the complete stash of coke in the process..
All of which, with the probably exception of the locations, sounds like it could be any drug heist / dealing movie.Which is where director / writer Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya and co-writer / actor Alain Saadeh start to send us off in a completely different direction. Through a series of pretty plausible incidents, Ziad finds himself as a budding movie producer and eventually, politician.
The journey itself is an entertaining one but it’s the wonderfully complexity that Bou Chaaya weaves into the movie that really pays off. Simple on premise but picking up interesting points about Lebanese society, attitudes to fame, day to day life and political motives, this is far more fun than a rote Hollywood effort. The movie is beguilingly amusing throughout and Alain Saadeh is a standout lead who should be getting attention outside Lebanon for his lead potential. His Ziad is just smooth enough to make you believe he could get away with it but just rough enough around the edges for you to wonder if he actually will.
At a perfect 107 minutes, Very Big Shot is a superbly entertaining ride with a sharp, droll script, decent action pieces and some nicely rounded characters. Hollywood, take note.