Black Gold (2011)

Holy crap! (face palm) This movie is such a blunder of near epic proportions that I’m not even sure where to begin. It centres on the son of a sultan in 1930s Arabia who becomes caught in the middle of a war between his families house and that of his father-in-law over the use of an oil-rich territory between their two kingdoms. What follows wants to have been directed by David Lean or Ridley Scott. Instead, Director Jean Jacques Annaud (Enemy at the Gates) has crafted a lavishly mounted but poorly plotted ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ type story that doesn’t know what message it wants to send. On one hand, it preaches about proper interpretations and preservation of the Korans ‘teachings’ (a barely disquised but valid critique of modern day Islamists) and the evils of American influence in a not-so-subtle jab at the modern situation in the area, while then displaying the Arab tribes as instantly barbaric, revenge-fuelled followers with no sense of true direction who, after all they’ve been through as a result of greedy foreign interference, just hop happily straight into bed with the infidels without seemingly a second thought. Now, while this is largely what actually happened, narratively it comes across as sloppy and directionless. And then there’s the characters. The two warring sultans are played by Antonio Banderas (cartoonishly) and Mark Strong (decently) while the character of the son is portrayed as though he is suffering some form of mild mental retardation. It’s hard to get behind a character who you swear is going to start drooling at any minute…if he doesn’t nod off first. And the less said about the female characters, the better. In the movies favor, you can see the money on screen. The flick LOOKS great. There is some very impressive cinematography and the large battle scenes are well choreographed and edited. But then people stop fighting and speak. And it’s cringe-worthy. The acting ranges from wooden as hell to over-blown as fuck. I laughed out loud more than once at mere line deliveries. In a nutshell, this one  is an expensive failure with a heavy-handed, clumsy and obvious political/religious message that is shunted aside by the poor acting, bad pacing and glaring stereotypes, not to mention an ending that seems to spit in the face of all that came before it. Don’t bother with this one. There’s far better stories of this kind out there.


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