El Almany: Thug Life
Ahmed BedeirAida Riyad...
Alaa El Sherif
In 1 Cinema
Ramadan stars as the titular El Almany; a thug who’s caught on video
killing a guy for his phone and jacket. As the media latches on to the case and
the police descend on the ghetto, we see exactly what led a promising, young
mechanic to turn to a life of crime, culminating in murder.
Has Ramadan ever played a character that isn’t dirt poor? He’s a really
good actor and he deserves better than to be typecast this way. Anyway, this
film doesn’t have him showing off any new skills nor is it exactly a good
showcase for him. The film is chock full of clichés and overacting, giving it a
definite Egyptian soap opera feel and it’s mostly the romantic subplot that’s
responsible for this.
El Almany is caught between two girls; Habiba, the girl
next door and Sabah, a prostitute. Sabah is head over heels in love with him
and he has absolutely no problem sleeping with her and stringing her along. The
girl he really wants though is Habiba apparently because she’s a ‘good’ girl
who doesn’t sleep around and because she keeps turning him down. The girls are
pitted against each other for the whole film – virgin vs. whore – as Sabah
lashes out in jealousy while Habiba tries her best to steer clear of both Sabah
and El Almany in an effort to keep her reputation from being sullied.
The film’s lighting is really weird; the actors’ faces are often lit in
a way that leaves their eyes in the shade while the sound is frequently
muffled. In addition, the fight scenes look incredibly staged with fake sound
effects and clunky, rapid cutting. All of this gives the film a very low budget
look and while this is most definitely the case, the lighting and sound issues
at the very least, could have been avoided.
The film doesn’t add anything to what is practically a genre of Egyptian
cinema; thugs and prostitutes in the ghettos. The dialogue never goes past the
simplistic and the visuals are by no means impressive nor do they show a
different aspect of life in the ghetto than the one that we’re exposed to in
every single film or TV show and which – no matter how violent or despondent
they make it seem – nobody takes seriously.
It isn’t all doom and gloom though.
The audience at the viewing we were at seemed to find the numerous shots of
spaced out junkies completely hilarious and El Almany’s sidekick also managed
to wrangle out a few laughs with his retorts.
El Almany is a straightforward,
not particularly well made drama. It aims for gritty but more often than not
lands somewhere in the vicinity of cheesy. Luckily, it still manages to be
reasonably engaging, though it’s often for entirely wrong reasons.