Thursday, November 10, 2016

Baaghi (Sabbhir Khan, 2016)

I unironically enjoy Bollywood movies. Sure, they can go on way too long (even Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, my favourite Bollywood movie, could lose about half an hour), and can be melodramatic as hell (2003's Dil Ka Rishta has the most insane last 5 minutes of any movie I've seen), but they can still be great fun. 


“I’m willing to die for her. Are you?”

This movie has come under fire for ripping off The Raid. I find this accusation ridiculous...ly limited. It also rips off The Karate Kid, any martial arts movie about a rebel who has to avenge the death of his master, Romeo and Juliet, soap adverts, eighties music videos and the cultural sensitivity of a Golan-Globus action movie. 

At the beginning, I was kind of in love with this movie. We start with a beautiful young actress Sia (Shraddha Kapoor) getting kidnapped by gangsters from a film set. Her father, the movie's producer, then tracks down the one man who can save her.

We are then  introduced to our hero, Ronny (Tiger Shroff) performing a handstand on two fingers. Awesome. He's Sia's former boyfriend who, due to melodramatic BS revealed later, has no interest in helping her.But then Sia's dad offers money -- lots of money.
Turns out Ronny needs some dough. His (only?) friend, a little boy with intellectual disabilities, is sick and the doctor is leaving in a few days unless our hero can put up the dough for the boy's operation. Motive done.

Say what you will about Bollywood and bloated running times — Baaghi starts with a bang. In the first eight minutes, we’ve been introduced to our heroes and the plot has been set in motion. Hollywood action movies have forgotten the art of cutting to the chase. 

But then the movie then goes on for another two hours, and you wonder why they bothered.

Cue a really long flashback in which we learn about Ronny and Sia’s past romance. It is basically the second act of Karate Kid, complete with a variation on the old ‘chores as training’ montage. Ronny is your typical rebellious teen who has been sent to a martial arts school by his dying father.  He finds purpose at the school under the strict tutelage of his master Guruswamy (Shaurya Bharadwaj), and meets the beautiful Sia. Cue too many musical montages and they are in love.


Clearly, the focus was on making the action sweet, but I wish the dance numbers packed the same level of inventiveness as the action scenes. These love montages are really horrible -- they look like rejected Hanson videos from the 90s. 

A word about our leads. Tiger Shroff is a fine physical talent, but his performance is a little forced. He convinces as a teen douchebag in the early scenes but he's too good looking to convince as a hardened badass. Based off this movie, I can tell that Shraddha Kapoor is REALLY pretty. And that's about it. She's a big deal, so I'll give her the benefit of the doubt here. The script is clearly at fault -- Sia is just meant to be the glittering jewel that our hero has to save from the villains. Their chemistry is... nonexistent. It's hard to figure out why they all for each other, aside from the fact that they are the best-looking people in the movie.  

Back to the flashback. Guruswamy has a son, Raghav (Sudheer Babu), the pride of the school who moonlights as a crime kingpin running a series of illegal fight clubs across south east Asia. He is our villain, and the man responsible for Sia's kidnapping at the beginning of the movie. Like Ronny, he becomes obsessed with Siya and proves it by poisoning his father when he gets in the way. Raghav tries to kill Ronny, but our hero manages to outwit him and escape.

Back in the present, Ronny has arrived in Bangkok where Raghav has Sia imprisoned in a massive skyscraper. At this point I was getting impatient. So far this movie felt like a boring Karate Kid with patricide. I wanted what all those angry fanboy articles promised: The Raid with musical numbers. At this point the movie becomes insanely racist toward Thai people -- the women are either dumb or hookers; the men are all grungy gangsters. It felt like something out of a Chuck Norris movie from the 80s.


Just as the movie appears to be ending, the movie has to throw in a pointless double blind involving a faked death. This subplot goes on for what feels like four hours. Finally in the last 30 minutes, Ronny arrives at the building and kick-punches his way to the penthouse for a final showdown with Raghav.

Final thoughts? Baaghi is not the movie I thought it was going to be. It was way too long, way too generic and featured two mutually exclusive subplots involving disabled characters which are the most randomly offensive things I've seen in a movie since The Do-Over. There is so much movie here I would love to see someone have a go at cutting it down and focusing on the through-line of Ronny rescuing Sia and getting revenge on Raqhav.

Ultimately, Baaghi's pilfering is fascinating for awhile, but the acting and the script are so overwrought and uninspired, the movie runs out of steam before The Raid-style finale finally wheezes into view.

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