Having nearly gotten made while successfully sabotaging an underground Iranian nuclear facility, CIA operative Tom Harris (Gerard Butler) just wants to get home in time for his daughter’s graduation.  When his handler Roman (Travis Fimmel, "Lean on Pete") offers enough money to send her to medical school, though, Tom’s convinced to pull one last, dangerous mission.  Paired with new handler/translator Mo (Navid Negahban, TV's 'Homeland'), once back in country Tom’s image is splashed across news broadcasts and, hunted down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard's Farzad Asadi (Bahador Foladi) and I.S.I. assassin Kahil (Ali Fazal, "Death on the Nile"), they must traverse hundreds of miles to get to “Kandahar.”

Laura's Review: C

Arriving on the heels of Michael Ritchie’s “The Covenant” won’t do “Kandahar” any favors, writer Mitchell LaFortune’s take on a U.S. national and his Middle Eastern counterpart having to rely on each other to survive lacking the emotional weight of the earlier film’s longer bond.  He and director Ric Roman Waugh ("Greenland,' "National Champions") introduce multiple characters in separate threads which get muddy, but Roman Waugh’s direction, especially his avoidance of CGI for explosive effects, elevates “Kandahar” as a production, if not catapulting it above the generic political thriller heap expositorily.

We’re introduced to Tom masquerading as a Telecomm contractor, furiously rewiring internet access back to Langley as Iranian guards’ suspicions grow.  He assures them by showing them a sports game on his phone, evidence of faster speeds before hightailing it out of there with his young partner Oliver (Tom Rhys Harries, "The Gentlemen").  Meanwhile a female journalist (Elnaaz Norouzi) gets access to classified documents outlining their operation, but unbeknownst to her, she is under surveillance by Farzad.  Kahil leads a Taliban meeting, then departs shedding his head scarf and vaping as he heads to a sports car.

We never do get the rationale behind the CIA’s determination to send Tom back into Iran, but the stakes of getting him back out are made clear when we see what’s happened to Oliver.  That British journalist is kidnapped and it is easy to confuse her fate with that of the sister-in-law Mo is trying to rescue, his underlying reason for joining Tom’s undisclosed mission.  There are just too many threads and too many details, like Tom’s pending divorce, thrown in only to be dropped.  Butler is fine in the lead, although as is frequently the case with the Scottish actor, his accent slips through his American façade.

Robin's Review: C

Tom Harris (Gerard Butler) is a CIA operative working in the heart of hostile territory in Iran when his cover is blown. He and his translator now have to evade two Special Forces units on their tail and they must use every bit of the skill and courage to make it to the extraction point in “Kandahar.”

The title for this routine, though over-busy, action thriller is misleading. The titular town is an ethereal “extraction point,” a destination some 400 miles away. He just completed his mission – blowing up an Iranian centrifuge site – and is ready to go home to his family. Then, at a cocktail party, Tom’s handler offers him a whole bunch of money to take on one more mission. Tom agrees.

This is about where things get very busy and somewhat confusing. Tom has pissed off both the Iranians and the Pakistanis and they want his head. Each country sends units of their elite special forces to hunt down and kill Tom Harris and his translator, Mohammed (Navid Negahban). (Mohammed and his own story feel tacked on to the thriller story.) So, we have two men facing impossible odds and a daunting distance to cover with danger all along the way. Two heavily armed and rapid deployment teams are racing each other to get to them first. A Pakistani lone wolf “hunter” is tracking them, also with deadly intent. Add to the mix a Brit female report taken by the Taliban and Mo’s wife’s sister is missing and he must find her.

The problem with so many things going on is that the filmmakers end up leaving loose ends not tied. The script by Mitchell LaFortune is too much of a kitchen sink and, often times, the story goes into the weed. The resolution to this dilemma by director Ric Roman Waugh is to just leave the ends loose and hope no one notices. That is sloppy movie making, to me.

Open Road opens "Kandahar" in theaters on 5/26/23.