Mike Tyson And The Mountain Are Starring In An Egyptian Film

We take a close look at the use of sensationalism, copying films and other unfortunate traits in Arab movies and shows that we hope will stop

Hamlet Pharaoh (The Pharaoh’s Campaign) stars Mike Tyson and The Mountain among Egyptian actors.

by Sulaiman Adam

Entertainment 1 July 2019

Mike Tyson and The Mountain are staring in an Egyptian film. That has to be one the most random things we’ve ever heard.

That’s not the only shocking part.

The film, Hamlet Pharaon (The Pharaoh’s Campaign) stars Egyptian actor Amr Saad and singer Ruby. Yeah, we were pretty surprised to see her on the poster too.

The film is about Yehia an ex-military man (Amr Saad) who has a mysterious past which includes him being the leader of a massive, deadly assassination squad.

He’s tough, he’s been through stuff but he’s still a good man.

This isn’t a particularly new role for Amr Saad to take on. A lot of his performances see him as the reluctant or misunderstood tough guy, ready to put his life on the line to save an oppressed group of people in extreme and dramatic situations.

Hamlet Pharaon doesn’t stray too far from this scenario. Yehia is determined to lead a group of Egyptian refugees through the desert. And on this perilous journey, he must protect them from a group of evil mercenaries. And somehow, his ex-flame played by Ruby, we believe, is also involved.

For those of you who might not be aware, Ruby whose debut single and accompanying music video Enta Aref Leih (You Know Why) was one of the biggest hits ever in the Arab world in the summer of 2003.

The song and video were considered very provocative. Her following single and music video Leih Beydary Kedah (Why Is He Hiding His Feelings Like This?) were also considered pretty scandalous.

The single was featured in her first film that same year Saba’ Wara’aat Kotcheena (7 Playing Cards) which was banned in some Arab countries due to its sexually suggestive content.

Other than a random single that came out in 2008, we’ve hardly heard from her, and to be honest, we didn’t think we ever would. So, seeing her as circus performer/assassin/tough girl in Hamlet Pharaon kind of made our day.

WATCH: Ruby’s Enta Aref Leih 

Also the short hair looks good.

Based on the trailer (which has been viewed over a million times – see below) we are certain that Mike Tyson and The Mountain are playing the leaders of the evil mercenaries determined to stop Yeiha from doing good.

WATCH: Trailer for Pharaoh’s Campaign Featuring Mike Tyson and The Mountain

So, again, we have to ask the question – why Mike Tyson and the Mountian?!

Mike Tyson who is world heavyweight champion and holds the record as the youngest boxer to win a heavyweight title at 20-years-old, is famous for more than just his athletic prowess. His personal life, outspoken views, larger than life personality has cemented his legacy in pop culture (and that tattoo – I mean come on!).

The Mountain, otherwise known as Gregor Clegane the violent older brother of Sandor Clegane (whose face he burnt) from Game of Thrones is also known by his real name Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson The Icelandic strongman. He’s 6’9 and weighs between 180 -200 kg.

Other than being ridiculously strong,  The Mountain is internet famous after his wedding to social media influencer wife Kelsy Henson who is 5’2.

Mike Tyson isn’t a complete stranger to the big screen though. An surprisingly this isn’t his first time acting in an Arabic film. His filmography includes The Hangover (part I and II), Ip Man 3, and the Algerian action film Gates of the Sun directed by Jean-Marc Minéo.

Allegedly, before Mike Tyson came on board, another 80s action hot shot, John Van Damn was supposed to be staring in the film.

It seems that the only reason these two would be featured in a contemporary Egyptian action film, is an attempt to give the film more of an edge for an Arab audience?

Think what you will about Mike Tyson, he is after all an international celebrity and that must raise the profile of an Arab film. Right?

Well, here are our thoughts.

Sensationalism around a film, whether it’s using a controversial personality such as Mike Tyson, someone connected to one of the most popular TV shows  of all time, The Mountain, or a once banned and provocative singer and actress, Ruby, none of it really matters if the film is… crap.

That of course depends on your definition of crap.

Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson and his wife Kelsey Henson. Instagram / @kelc33

Amr Saad and Mike Tyson on the set of Hamlet Pharaoh. Photo: Youm 7

Based on the trailer and what details have been released about the plot and characters, Hamlet Pharaon seems to be following a particular formula, we’ve come to expect from Egyptian action films.

Often or not, they are a hyper dramatic, overly styled synthesis of outdated American 80’s film tropes and trending contemporary action nonsense that dates quickly. This, for some people, is highly entertaining on a number of levels.

These types of films don’t date well.

American 80’s actions films such as Rambo, Mad Max, Lethal Weapon, First Blood, The Terminator, Die Hard (to name a few) arguable birthed the genre and trend of the overly masculine contemporary male hero.

READ: Arabs Have A Lot To Celebrate

In the West, these films are cultural archives of how masculinity, violence and entertainment were perceived and are a map to a pretty simple formula on how to keep a mainstream audience entertained.

A formula which, over the years, has been given consistent doses of steroids.

Unfortunately, a majority of mainstream Arab action films have suffered with the film equivalent of overly muscular guys, taking shirtless gym selfies, that if you look closely, did indeed skip leg day.

What we mean by that is that Arab films and shows are still lacking in authentic stories and storytelling.

Arab films and shows have a history of making diluted, cheaper copies of popular western films. We won’t call them a reimagining, remakes or adaptations because often the original source material of the story is never sited. And, what else would you call a scene by scene copy?

Some obvious examples of this include:

The 2002 film Al-raghba (The Desire) starring Egyptian actresses  Ilham Shaheen, Nadia El Gendy which is a copy of the iconic film A Street Car Named Desire starring Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh.

Pop star and actress Haifa Wahbi’s Halawet Rouh (The Sweetness of a Soul), is a copy of the Italian masterpiece Malena starring Monica Bellucci written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore.

And more recently the Egyptian series, Weld El-Ghalaba (Son of the Poor) has been called out on social media for blatantly being a Breaking Bad rip off.

Frankly, no matter how objective one tries to be, examples such as this are pretty embarrassing.

There is good news though.

Arab films and shows may be experiencing the beginnings of renaissance.

Naji Abu Nowar’s Academy Nominated film Theeb (2014), Ziad Doueiri nominated film The Insult (2017), Nadine Labaki’s filmography as well as her recent work as the Un Certain Regard Jury President of the 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival are examples of Arab storytellers breathing new life and expectations into Arab films.

Netflix is also changing the game for Arab shows.

Netflix’s first Arabic original drama, Jinn was released earlier this month and though it’s had mixed reviews, it’s a necessary step in the right direction.

Another Arabic Netflix original Al Rawabi School for Girls is also in the works along with Paranormal a series based on the incredibly popular novels by the late iconic Egyptian author Ahmed Khaled Tawfik.

The Arab audiences of today are expecting more from their writers and filmmakers, particularly when it comes to original content and creative authenticity.

Younger Arab audiences see right through sensationalism and marketing gimmicks. They may share the news that Mike Tyson is going to be in an Egyptian film, but they probably won’t see it. And if they do, won’t remember it, except perhaps to mock it.

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