Who Killed Captain Alex? (2010)
Hi peeps, Nate here in the early days of 2016. What is this movie? Well, it's a gritty, violent, mean-spirited mafia movie from Uganda, of all places. Made on a budget of I'm spitballing 53 dollars and starring three dozen black guys none of whom I can tell apart (I'm not racist, I can't tell Asian men apart either!). Filmed in and around the director's back yard, it tells the meandering, head-scratching story of some Army commandos fighting the Tiger Mafia in the slums of Kampala. Machetes swing, blood squibs are poorly popped, neighbors and cousins posing as stuntmen posing as actors jump and run around and shoot at each other in an orgy of exploding heads and rattling Kalashknovs that would make Reagan-era Stallone weep with pride. Oh, and someone kills Captain Alex, obviously. But I don't care because we knew Captain Alex for all of maybe 45 seconds of screen time and I seriously couldn't tell him apart from the other guys in the same shot (again, not racist!). Captain Alex's brother is a ninja (fucking seriously) and he goes off on a vengeance quest to find his killer. Along the way he finds the Tiger Mafia Kingpin's left-for-dead wife and and there's some other guy's brother and maybe a television reporter and is that a rap star? I don't know what the hell is happening half the time.
Who are you?
So, how many times have you been watching some shitty-ass b-movie and thought to yourself, “Daaaaam dawg, this is some shitty-ass b-movie right here!”? I'm guessing nearly every time, if I know my audience (hi, James!). But, I'm also guessing that you, like me, believe that nearly every terrible b-movie can be saved through the miracle of editing. Tell me what b-movie wouldn't benefit from being judiciously trimmed down and tightened up? Certainly Who Killed Captain Alex? would be infinitely better if about 30 minutes of useless filler, ancillary characters, and pointless subplots were CTRL+V'd right out of existence. And it's only 68 minutes long to begin with!
I have some random, in-no-particular-order thoughts on this movie (of course I do)... First off there is apparently no place to cheaply (or legally?) buy prop guns in Uganda so they had to make their own out of rebar, PVC pipes, and duct tape, to predictable results. One dude's machinegun has belts of ammo that are quite clearly wooden pegs whittled to a point, it's glorious in every way, like something you and your idiot cousins would make when you were twelve and bored during summer break. I just checked wikipedia and it's insanely hard to legally purchase a gun in Uganda, good on them.
I want this one!
Who needs guns when, much like in Japan, every single person in Uganda, man, woman, and child, is a kung-fu master who will Bruce Lee you on the spot if you so much as look at them askance. Either this is indeed true and Uganda is a nation of murderous martial arts experts (?) or the director had an in with a local karate school and got all his actors for a song. Actually, and I mean this, some of these guys really know their stuff, and without Western-style fast editing cuts and CGI/wirework nonsense, you get to see what a real karate fight looks like. And that's two guys flailing at each other without trying to hurt each other that bad.
Ugandan ninjas climb door frames.
Technically, it's a vastly better production than it has any right to be. Some of the dialogue is cracking good, especially the frequent insults (“Diarrhea squirt” ha!). Of course the English subs are pretty lousy and they seem to cover maybe every third line spoken, but since I flunked out of my Bantu language class I should be happy for this much. The cinematography is actually pretty good and the camerawork is on par with some stuff from Hollywood that had budgets in the tens of millions. I seriously doubt there was a craft services table on the shoot of How Killed Captain Alex?, but it's clear they used their paltry budget to maximum effect. It's not all good, of course, there's frequently some distracting dirt specks on the camera lens, boom mikes are visible, Tetse flies buzz around and land on the lens, tracking shots bounce and jiggle like someone tripped, it all makes it into the final print, not a reshoot to be seen (or paid for). I love it, must have been a fun project to work on.
SAG credits? Wha?
The location is very unique from my Western viewpoint, though the abject poverty and disrepair of this part of Uganda is unsettling. The roads are all overgrown with weeds, the Toyota Prados are all rusted out, and everyone still has chintzy box TVs like you still find in trucker motels in Kentucky. No one seems to be delivering basic sanitary services, filling in potholes, or policing the streets, and there's not a single fish and chips pub to be seen. Surely Uganda made a mistake by voting for independence from the Crown back in the '60s, these savages are in dire need of Her Majesty's benevolent governance (shut up, that's NOT racist!).
She's not singing “God Save the Queen”.
The come-as-you-are casting call for commandos must have been amusing, bring your own camo and fake gun and show up at the football pitch by noon. Hey you got some welding goggles? A primary school backback spraypainted green? Is that a University of Kampala t-shirt? Really? You're all Army Soldiers now, sign these waivers because guaranteed someone is going to get tetanus by the end of the day. Oh, and not one single white person to be seen in the entire movie (shut up!).
They had access to a simple video editing program that allowed them to (poorly) overlay gunmuzzle flashes, blood splatters, and even cordite smoke directly on to the frames, which really makes the action shoot-out scenes measurably better. I'm not saying it's Hollywood-level special effects, but for what was surely a knock-off Chinese version of a Bulgarian vfx editing software package illegally downloaded from a Danish despositfiles torrent site, it looks pretty damn good.
Makes the fake guns easier to take.
There are lots of knife slashes and gunshot wounds but no sex or nudity, which seems odd for such a z-grade stinker but perhaps it says something more about southern African sensibilities than anything. You don't see many boobs in Nigerian Nollywood stuff either, I've checked, you know, for scientific research purposes.
Not even sure I'd want to see her boobs.
The soundtrack is a mix of freebie Napster reject Afropop and weirdly random electronika dance club samples, one scene is backed by an instrumental elevator version of Seal's “Kissed by a Rose” and the Army Commander's cellphone ringtone is a midi version of Mendelssohn's “Wedding March”. Just insane, but unlike a lot of other b-movies the music is never overly loud or intrusive, a definite plus.
Plus, cellphones from 1997.
The head villain, the Tiger Mafia's leather jacket-clad Kingpin is fantastic, the best actor in the entire movie by a long shot. Funny, perpetually angry, emotional to the point of tears, violent at the drop of a hat, he's everything a compelling, watchable movie villain should be. For that matter, his henchmen are vastly more interesting than the vanilla/drywall paste “good guys”. There's the black Russian mercenary, the murderous chick who looks like a 1994 Destiny's Child music video threw up on her, a dude with Spiderman mask (???), a guy with Native American handicraft leather jacket, a dreadlock biker headband gunman who also knows how to fly helicopters, and that one bro's cousin who the Kingpin shot in the face just for grins. This motley collection of fools and thugs is so colorful, in fact, that you could edit out 99% of the scenes with the boring good guy soldiers and cops and it would still be a fine show.
Why can't we have more of these guys?
This movie's death toll is horrendous, but not unexpected. There are two big extended battle scenes between the Army and the Tiger Mafia, in the first raid 5 gangsters are killed for the loss of 19 soldiers. In the second battle, the one that closes out the movie, things are slightly better for the government employees as 11 gangsters are killed for the loss of 14 soldiers. In between these two action set pieces there's all sorts of carnage and 3 gangsters, 3 soldiers, and a poor civilian are killed in various rage-fueled shootouts, summary executions, random drive-bys, and verbal arguments escalating drastically out of hand. In all, 56 people are murdered in this 68-minute long movie, ranking it up there with the best that 1983 American urban cinema could produce.
Oh, by the way, in case you were still wondering who killed Captain Alex...it doesn't matter, it probably never did, and no answer is forthcoming. Wait, is there possibly a sequel out there? One in which we learn who killed Captain Alex?
Sadly, google tells me no.
Written in January 2016 by Nathan Decker.
comments powered by Disqus
that's between you and the vengeful wrath of your personal god...