Why 2023’s The Misfits Is So Controversial

Summary

  • The Misfits, directed by Renny Harlin and starring Pierce Brosnan, caused controversy due to its portrayal of Qatar as a terrorist-supporting nation called Jazeeristan. The negative depiction struck a nerve with Qataris who have fought against the terrorist stigma for years.
  • The film’s storyline also referred to a prominent Qatari scholar as the “sponsor of global terrorism,” which further fueled the backlash. As a result, The Misfits was banned from being screened in Qatari cinemas, severely damaging its reputation.
  • The movie’s controversial funding and release added fuel to the fire. Co-produced by UAE-based FilmGate Productions, the heavy involvement of the UAE led to demanded rewrites that portrayed the country as infallible heroes. The timing of the film’s release, shortly after Qatar had mended relationships with neighboring nations, was seen as a deliberate attempt to undermine those ties and paint Qatar as an untrustworthy terrorist state.


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2021’s The Misfits was Finnish director Renny Harlin’s twenty-second feature-length film, boasting a diverse cast of actors led by Pierce Brosnan, but the movie spawned a lot of controversy upon release. The action heist film centered around a group of modern-day Robin Hood-esque thieves known as the Misfits and their plans to steal gold from underneath a maximum security prison on behalf of a renowned terrorist group. Despite the groups’ expertise, their most recent job meant they needed the help of Richard Pace (Brosnan), an expert thief who could outsmart and maneuver the prison’s airtight security measures.

While Brosnan’s involvement as a core character in The Misfits looked like a promising return to form, considering his work as the iconic James Bond, the controversy surrounding The Misfits far overshadowed any other relevant news. Those unfamiliar with Harlin or his work should note that the filmmaker is perhaps best known for his bombastic action-heavy movies and work ethic, often releasing two movies a year. What should have been a love letter to Ocean’s Eleven ended up being one of the most controversial movies of 2021 instead.

Related: Every Pierce Brosnan James Bond Movie, Ranked Worst To Best


Rami Jaber as The Prince The Misfits 2021

The Misfits was originally slated for release in theaters in Qatar theaters, but after a pre-screening, the movie was dropped from all the nation’s theaters. This was due to the fact that characters in the movie refer to Qatar as Jazeeristan, a nation of citizens who support global terrorist organizations and whose leaders finance extreme acts of terrorism. Not only did the movie frame Qatar in such a negative light, but it also struck a nerve with Qataris because the terrorist stigma is something many of them have fought against for years.

In addition to The Misfits‘ events linking Qatar to terrorism, Qatar-based Egyptian Muslim Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi (a prominent Scholar) was blatantly referred to as the “sponsor of global terrorism” throughout the movie’s events. Because The Misfits portrayed one of the nation’s most revered and influential figures as a terrorist leader, The Misfits was effectively banned from being screened in Qatari cinemas. If this weren’t bad enough, news of how the movie was funded and its release plans effectively killed its reputation overseas as well.

Related: Pierce Brosnan’s 2021 Bomb Reversed His James Bond Role – And Started A Terrible Rotten Tomatoes Trend

The Misfits’ Controversial Funding & Release Explained

Mansoor Alfeeli as Abu Hirawa The Misfits 2021 Movie

The Misfits was co-produced, financed, and filmed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based film production company, FilmGate Productions. The UAE’s influence over the production meant that heavy rewrites were demanded, rewrites that framed the UAE as infallible heroes. Co-star and co-producer Rami Jaber filed a lawsuit against UAE partners over a dispute regarding The Misfits‘ content.

Perhaps the most damning situation regarding The Misfits‘ release was its timing, as the movie was released mere months after Qatar mended relationships with many of its neighboring nations. From 2017 to 2021, a land, air, and sea blockade was imposed on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and Bahrain, effectively cutting any diplomatic and trade ties between the nations. The timing of The Misfits‘ release was seen as a deliberate tactic to undermine the newly mended ties by framing Qatar as an untrustworthy terrorist state. These transgressions are why The Misfits was the most controversial movie of 2023.

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