Five Minarets In New York – DVD Review

This action film, written and directed by Mahsun Kırmızıgül, was one of the highest-grossing Turkish films of 2010. The stars displayed on the DVD cover are Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon) and Robert Patrick (Terminator 2, Die Hard 2), yet both barely feature.

Turkish stars Mashun Kirmizigul and Mustafa Sandal take centre stage as top secret police officers Firat and Acar, who have been dispatched to New York to uncover the identity of a dangerous Islamic fundamentalist leader. The New York FBI is led by Agent Becker, an all American alpha male who is there solely to shout out assertive agent things such as ‘COME ON PEOPLE. LET’S MOVE.’ A Muslim family man is arrested, Hadji Gumush (Haluk Bilginer), in connection with an international terrorist warrant. The Turkish police officers must extradite him back to Turkey, but with the help of his friend Marcus (Glover) he goes into hiding and we discover that Firat has a personal, ulterior motive.

The premise is this basically this: Is Hadji a Baddie or a Goodie? The script is so gaspingly simple that it’s patronizing. Occasional bloody violence and terrorist acts aside, the film is addressing a child. Like a Disney film, all is pinned into black and white; heroes and villains, right and wrong, bad and good. It goes something like this: First man: ‘He’s a bad man! He’s a cold-blooded killer!’ Second man: ‘No! You’re wrong! He’s a good man. He’s not a killer!’ And so on. The clothes are even symbolic; white is good and black is bad.

The scenes are brief and combined with the constant irritating orchestral music in the backdrop the film appear more as a music video than a piece of cinema. The scenes occasionally last long enough only for the characters to state the obvious, as if assuming the audience has the attention span of a child on Red Bull and possesses no short term memory or processing ability. After witnessing Hadji sobbing into his smart phone, watching his daughter’s wedding on the small screen from hiding, like some sort of sentimental phone advert, he states ‘the ceremony’s over. I can’t be with my daughter on her happiest day’.

Agent Becker, a character who is nothing but a stock example of a patriotic racist, insightfully says ‘we’re up against a highly organised Islamic terrorist group, and obviously we’ve got to solve this as soon as we can’. Becker is eventually taught a moral lesson on equality, however. Acar calmly says to him ‘you know, Becker, you can’t blame the entire Muslim community for the actions of a few men. It just isn’t fair’. Becker responds ‘You’re right. Sometimes it’s hard to forgive’.

Words and phrases are spoken on rotation. Oh the repetition, the repetition! If I kept count I’m sure I would have counted ‘What’s going on?’, ‘Who the hell is this guy?’, ‘I don’t understand’ at least fifty times. There is much explaining and repeating. All the while the film is drowning in unbearable Hollywood-style sentimentality. Cue tears, heart to hearts and repetitive apologising. One character even says ‘I’m sorry, again’.

Five Minarets in New York made for a very frustrating watch. It was like being repeatedly shouted at. Simply shallow action nonsense created on auto pilot posing as an exploration of America’s relationship with the Middle East post 9/11. The lazy, unimaginative script was delivered with all the charisma of cardboard cut outs. At least we all learnt that racism isn’t fair.

1/5

Five Minarets In New York was released on DVD in the UK on  7th November 2011

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