Sattar Review

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Everybody likes a rags-to-riches story, especially when it comes to sports. This is why it’s no surprise that the Saudi Arabian freestyle wrestling comedy Sattar, which did so well in its home country that it knocked Avatar: The Way of Water off the top of the Saudi box office, will now be released in UK cinemas. Following on from Haifaa al-Mansour’s excellent feminist coming-of-age film Wadjda, this is only the second Saudi movie to get a release in Britain. While Sattar, though humorously spirited does not quite attain such lofty storytelling heights as that film, nevertheless there is certainly enough regular guy charm in star Ibrahim Al Hajjaj – Simon Pegg and Nick Frost–like – to make him appeal beyond the Arab demographic of UK cinema goers and keep you engaged in Saad’s journey.

Al Hajjaj is an extremely popular stand-up comedian and actor from Saudi Arabia, who undoubtedly has an amazing sense of comic timing. Depending on his situation, his miserable insurance salesman with a secret wrestling fixation takes on different personalities – dull with colleagues or reticent around his fiancé and mother-in-law or supercharged when re-enacting old-fashioned wrestling episodes using toy figures. It’s delightful how he performs these excruciating wrestling scenes with utter unconcern for himself; slapstick are used by Abdullah Al-Arak as a way of showing this character trait off best. There’s a certain cheesy quality about the production design of this underground wrestling world where Saad goes through several severe beatings before two perfectly choreographed yet swiftly cut training montages display him getting back on track

Ali Hogain (Abdulaziz Alshehri), Saad’s manager who bases his entire persona on Hulk Hogan thus brings about intense mirth with bulging eyes and deep throaty voice to drive jokes home even harder. But before scriptwriters Ibraheem Alkhairallah and Ayman Wattar let forth some twists and turns, the set up of their partnership and Saad’s repeated encounters with new bizarre opponents slowed down pace.

Sattar is not at all deviating from this kind of sportive jest. Also, the film’s female characters are simply one-dimensional archetypes despite its hilarious floundering male energy. It is certainly much closer to Cuban Fury than Dodgeball; but it does have enough physical comedy, sardonic humor, nice character moments and a cool Arabic rap soundtrack to make you clap your hands.

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