Movie Review: Action Jackson (2014)

Action_Jackson_21.5 Stars (out of 4)

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If you were hoping for something new from director Prabhu Deva, you’ll be disappointed. Action Jackson (which isn’t actually a character’s name in film) is just as disorganized and misogynistic as R… Rajkumar and Rowdy Rathore, despite a solid effort by leading man Ajay Devgn.

I’ll do my best to spoil as little as possible about the plot, but it’s hard to do so given how all-over-the-place the story is.

Devgn plays Vishi, a typical macho Bollywood hero who’s prone to drinking and fighting but has a heart of gold. While visiting his friend Musa (Kunaal Roy Kapoor, butt of the film’s many fat jokes) in Mumbai, Vishi meets pathologically unlucky Khushi (Sonakshi Sinha).

Khushi’s luck changes for the better after she walks in on Vishi in a changing room and then in a bathroom. She starts hanging around him in the hopes of catching Vishi with his pants down again, thereby making her lucky enough to land a rich, American husband.

The first hour of the film is spent on Vishi’s and Khushi’s budding romance, and it’s pretty funny. Prabhu Deva pokes fun at Devgn’s limited dance abilities by making Vishi bust moves whenever he hears music. Devgn’s “robot” is among the worst I’ve ever seen, and it’s all the more charming because of it.

As competent as he is at action, Devgn’s best genre is comedy. He’s quite funny in his storyline with Sinha, who pairs with him nicely.

Interspersed through the romantic storyline are scenes of goons and cops hunting for Vishi at the behest of a Bangkok-based don named Xavier. This story arc takes over after about an hour, and Sinha only shows up a few more times in the film.

The next portion of the film is a flashback about the Xavier’s former right-hand man, AJ (also Devgn, though I won’t specify how Vishi and AJ are connected). After establishing a light, cute tone at the start, the flashback is stunningly brutal.

When Prabhu Deva tries to reestablish a comedic tone later in Action Jackson, it doesn’t work. It took time to cast that comic spell, and it can’t be brought back instantaneously. Plus, after watching a AJ’s wife (Yami Gautam) get punched in the face repeatedly, I just wasn’t in the mood to laugh.

The flashback is also when Prabhu Deva’s troubling view of women — and specifically their sexuality — rears its ugly head again. Like Sinha, Gautam also plays a virtuous character (whose name I’m not sure of). We know this because they both wear floral prints, and usually long pants and long-sleeved tops. Their only desire is to get their men to give up drinking and fighting.

In contrast is Marina (Manasvi Mamgai), the don’s sister. She’s introduced after she’s been kidnapped, and AJ is sent to rescue her. Her kidnappers threaten to rape her, throwing water on her white blouse before unbuttoning it to reveal her bedazzled bra.

Hypothetical question: if Xavier had a brother instead of a sister, would the kidnappers have threatened to rape him?

Prabhu Deva makes an unsettling choice during the scene of AJ’s rescue attempt. Marina gets turned on while AJ chops down her would-be attackers. The song playing in the background — a blatant rip-off of Michael Bublé’s “Feeling Good” — sings about her beauty as she sits aroused in a forced state of semi-undress.

After her rescue, bikini-clad Marina sexually propositions AJ. He turns her down, prompting Marina to send Xavier’s goons to attack the character played by Gautam. They hit her, but they don’t threaten her with sexual violence.

So the chaste, modestly dressed woman isn’t threatened with rape, but the sexually aggressive, scantily clad woman is. The implication is that, for a woman who enjoys consensual sex, rape probably isn’t a big deal. Hell, she might even like it.

Will producers please stop giving Prabhu Deva money to direct films? He can’t do it responsibly. Given that I was the only one in my showing of Action Jackson, maybe other people are as sick of his movies as I am.

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19 thoughts on “Movie Review: Action Jackson (2014)

  1. JustMeMike

    Hi K –

    Action Jackson 1.5
    R…Rajkumar 1.0
    Rowdy Rathore 2.5
    Holiday 2.0
    Bullet Raja 0.5
    Boss 2.0
    Once Upon A Time in Mumbai Dobara 2.0
    Lootera 4.0

    These are your ratings over the last few years of films with Sonakshi Sinha. She’s played opposite the best of the Bollywood roster of leading men from Devgn, to Akshay, to Saif Ali Khan, to Shahid Kapoor plus Jimmy Shergill, and Salmon Khan in Dabangg 2.

    Apparently since Lootera,. when Sonakshi starred with Ranveer Singh, you’ve been unimpressed with her films. though not necessarily with Sonakshi herself as an actress. So I am positive this series of low ratings in the action film genre might say more about your reaction to the action genre than to any other factor.

    Or maybe that’ s my theory and not necessarily yours.. It seems that the quality of the stunts continues to rise, as does the complexity of the stunts, but as that happens,there’s not a comparable rise in the screen writing or story quotient. Maybe we are all over exposed to this kind of film making. Just wondering if you have noticed this pattern in your own reviews?

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      Your take is accurate, Mike. Bollywood action films are so often touted as “mindless entertainment,” as though that’s a good thing. I don’t expect Shakespeare, but I do expect the plot to at least make sense. I’ve seen enough on-screen explosions and gun battles in my life that they aren’t enough to impress me on their own. It’s why I get so excited when movies like Dabangg and Agent Vinod put twists on a largely homogenous genre.

      My problem with Sonakshi Sinha is that she doesn’t push herself as an actress. There’s this notion of “one for them, one for me” that a lot of actresses and male character actors use when choosing projects: pay the bills by doing a big, commercial film so that you can afford to do smaller, more complicated films. Looking at that list of Sonakshi’s films, they’re all commercial films except for Lootera (and maybe Bullet Raja). She was really, really good in Lootera, but she’s just window dressing in almost all of her other films. She can guide her career how she wants, but she’s not making the most of her talent.

      Reply
      1. Shah Shahid

        I’ve noticed that most actresses in Bollywood, with the exception of a few like Vidya Balan, do these kinds of brainless roles for the first 10 years of their career, before getting into the heavy hitting stuff. Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor all seemed to have followed this trend. Right now I’m waiting for an intensely gritty performance by Deepika Padukone. She’s next in line.

        Reply
        1. Kathy Post author

          Yeah, you have to prove your marketability before you can afford to do meatier roles. Otherwise you end up with a career like my girl Tannishtha Chatterjee, who does great work in great movies that nobody sees. I do think that Priyanka started mixing it up pretty early with risky movies like Fashion. She was the star of that, not just arm candy for a male star. After Lootera, I was hoping that Sonakshi would take more risks, but her upcoming projects seem like more of the same.

          Reply
          1. Shah Shahid

            Fashion was good, but I think Priyanka’s pivot came during Aitraaz. Since then I tolerated, and now am semi impressed with her. Did you hear she signed a development deal with ABC for a show, or to be part of a show. I’m worried about her.

            Reply
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    1. Kathy Post author

      It earned all 1.5 of those stars in the first hour, sukanya. If it had just stayed with the Ajay-Sonakshi storyline, it (maybe) could’ve wound up a 2.5-/3-star movie.

      Reply
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    1. Kathy Post author

      He asks the same question many of us have: “Sonakshi Sinha, how do you accept a script like this?” Thanks, shrey!

      Reply

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