Who Killed Captain Alex? (2010) — The $85 action thriller from Africa

“We found German tourists. We are cooking them.”

Justin’s rating: Your soldiers are not as good as these Supa Soldiers!

Justin’s review: There are a whole lot of low-budget action flicks in the world, as evidenced by any Walmart DVD bargain bin. But most of them weren’t the first Ugandan breakout hit that was reportedly made on an $85 budget solely to show in the director’s village. Yet when a surviving DVD copy of Who Killed Captain Alex? was uploaded to YouTube over a decade ago, it became a worldwide sensation with probably more eyeballs on it than the last 15 Bruce Willis straight-to-video projects combined.

The plot to this no-nonsense hour of action perfection involves a conflict between army commandos who are trying to take down the Tiger Mafia gang. Once Captain Alex gets killed in a raid, it’s up to his martial arts master brother to shoulder this task and bring a mixed bag of revenge, justice, and horribly green screened explosions to the situation.

A big part of the fun of this movie is like with other legendarily bad films, the people behind it were exuberant and determined to have a great time despite all of the obvious limitations. The making of Who Killed Captain Alex? is just as bonkers as the film itself, especially the part where they used condoms filled with cow’s blood to be squibs… until a cast member got poisoned from the bacteria.

Eighty-five bucks, even in Uganda in 2010, isn’t enough to buy you much of a professional look, never mind all of the crazy action scenes that this filmmaker wanted. But he didn’t let “Don’t have the funds for it” slow him down one bit. There are homemade props everywhere, cheezy computer effects substitute bullet strikes and blood splatters, and everyone on screen is throwing themselves into this with the enthusiasm of elementary school kids playing “war” at recess.

One gets the feeling that the entire village where this was made turned out to lend their enthusiasm and naked inexperience to the proceedings. Everyone’s clearly in on the joke here, so laughing while watching doesn’t feel mean — it feels like you’re joining the good-natured film crew that’s doing the same.

What’s even stranger than all of the typical bad movie shenanigans is the fact that the surviving copy of this movie has a bizarre English commentary running on top of it by a guy who thinks he’s MST3K incarnate. This is VJ (“video joker”) Emmie, a local hero who helped make foreign movies accessible to locals (and, now, vice-versa). So many layers to this experience, you have no idea.

Having heard of the legend of this movie for a long time now, I don’t know what to think now that I’ve seen it. That it is both bad and exuberantly made are without a doubt, but it’s not the kind of bad that I like to mock, nor the misled auteur director’s tour of ego and ineptitude that deserves any derision that comes its way. I guess it’s the type of movie that has to tickle you the right way for you to get mileage out of it.

I enjoyed a few moments of unintentional silliness and non sequiturs, but Who Killed Captain Alex? is far more interesting for its creation and strange trip to becoming a viral sensation than for its actual content.

Didja notice?

  • This MC is so cheery, I wish he’d introduce me to others on a daily basis
  • “I’ll warn you when I used the toilet.”
  • They are trashing this very modest dining establishment
  • “Operation Cut Tiger Ballz”
  • Bad guys always walk in slow motion
  • Captain Alex: The Musical
  • “Everybody in Uganda must know kung fu”
  • “Expect the unexpectable… Mama Mia!”
  • “I don’t need you, I have dozens of wives but only one brother!”

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