Tag Archives: Adah Sharma

Movie Review: Commando 2 (2017)

commando23 Stars (out of 4)

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Commando 2: The Black Money Trail is absolutely bonkers. If one is willing to accept the movie on its own terms, it’s a helluva fun and goofy ride.

Part of making peace with Commando 2 is accepting that it is not Commando: A One Man Army. While that movie had some quirks as well, its narrative was a straightforward story of two lovers on the run. The threats to the lovers were immediate and directed by a single villain, while the danger in Commando 2 is borne out of distrust for India’s political system.

Carrying over from the first movie to the second is the commando himself, Karan (Vidyut Jammwal). No mention is made of his love interest from the original film, Simrit (Pooja Chopra), so I guess they broke up.

Karan now works for some elite secretive unit of the government, tracking money launderers overseas and killing them in encounters. He makes sure to have one of his sidekicks shoot him and plant the gun on the bad guy’s body, so as to not get tied up in court on suspicion of extrajudicial killings. Due process does not exist in Commando 2.

Following a scene of some shady dealings in Taiwan, Karan gets the most perfect introduction imaginable. Our first glimpse of him is a closeup of Jammwal’s bulging bicep. Director Deven Bhojani knows that his film’s greatest asset is Jammwal’s heavily muscled body and the wondrous things it can do, usually some combination of running, jumping, kicking, and punching. Karan’s solo assault on a Taiwan high-rise is a great way to start the movie.

(While Commando 2‘s camera spends a lot of time lingering on Jammwal’s chiseled bod, let’s take a moment to appreciate how impossibly handsome he is, as well. I found it very upsetting whenever the bad guys punched him in his perfect face.)

As soon as Karan recovers from his bullet wounds, his boss (played by Adil Hussain) tasks him with bringing to justice the most notorious money launderer of all: Vicky Chaddha (Vansh Bhardwaj), who was recently apprehended in Malaysia with his wife, Maria (Esha Gupta).

However, Chaddha has so much dirt on India’s rich and powerful that the whole government could be brought down if he names names. Delhi’s Home Minister (Shefali Shah) assembles a team of morally flexible police officers to bring Vicky and Maria back to India and recover the laundered funds, before quietly dispatching the married couple. Karan weasels his way onto the team, which consists of brutal lead officer Bakhtawar (Freddy Daruwala), obligatory computer hacker Zafar (Sumit Gulati), and vain gun-for-hire Bhavana (Adah Sharma).

Materialistic Bhavana’s broadly humorous character feels out-of-step with the movie’s tone until one realizes that her entrance signals a shift from fairly serious to absolute mayhem. There are twists upon twists as Karan and the bad guys both claim to know that the other side knows what they have planned, thus necessitating a whole new plan to throw the other side for a loop. The story was clearly written starting at the end and working backward, so trying to make sense of it while it unfolds is a recipe for a headache.

Once one accepts these new conditions, one is free to enjoy Commando 2 in all its silliness. Not only is Karan an unrivaled martial artist, he’s a tech wizard, too. In a “high-tech forensic lab,” he analyzes the audio from a security camera video and concludes: “That means that the church is on the banks of a river, and there’s a bird sanctuary nearby.”

Since Karan is part of a team, he has to share some of the fighting duties with Bakhtawar and Bhavana, who acquit themselves well. There’s a cleverly choreographed scene in which Karan and Bhavana beat up a gang of assassins, he with a lead pipe and she with an iron chain. Never mind that the fight takes place in an airplane graveyard situated immediately next to a glamorous shopping mall, or that they are fighting a bunch of white ninjas on stilts.

As tough as he is, Karan does have a weakness for women. He gets all googly-eyed when Maria saunters into the room in a catsuit, one of the many sublimely-tailored outfits she wears that leave not an inch of fabric to spare.

Such a weakness is a nice addition to Karan’s character, humanizing him and giving Jammwal license to have a bit of fun. His incredible stunts would be enough, but Jammwal is too good of an actor to limit him in such fashion. Gupta is always terrific as the bombshell, and even Sharma is likable in spite of her character’s chatterbox tendencies.

Commando 2 isn’t as great as the first Commando, but it’s still really darned entertaining. I enjoyed watching it and would watch it again. That’s more than enough for me to recommend it.

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Movie Review: Hasee Toh Phasee (2014)

HTP3 Stars (out of 4)

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Finally, a movie in which the nerdy girl wins the hero’s heart without having to undergo a glamorous makeover. The tomboy reigns supreme in Hasee Toh Phasee (“She Smiles, She’s Snared“).

The tomboy at the heart of the film is Meeta (Parineeti Chopra), a clever, socially awkward young woman who stands out from her sisters because of her Harry Potter hairdo. In 2006, she flees from her sister’s wedding with the aid of stranger with a Rick Springfield coiffure, Nikhil (Sidharth Malhotra).

Nikhil is also clever, but more socially adept and far more cautious than Meeta. She invites him to join her on a trip, but he declines and returns to the wedding. Inside, he immediately falls in love with the first pretty woman he sees, a model named Karishma (Adah Sharma).

Fast-forward seven years, and Nikhil is hoping to finally do something right in Karishma’s eyes by marrying her. Things get complicated for the groom when Karishma asks Nikhil to look after her loony sister and keep her away from the wedding. The sister is Meeta, of course.

Meeta is one of the most well-developed characters in recent memory. All of her social tics — e.g. her extreme literalness and tendency not to blink during conversations — make her feel real, and they seem appropriate for a woman who’d rather be working in her chemistry lab than making small talk at a wedding.

Meeta comes alive in Chopra’s hands. She makes a character that could’ve been annoying into a vibrant and lovable person, and she’s at her best in a scene in which Meeta’s emotions get the best of her. Meeta’s relationship with her father, Devesh (Manoj Joshi), is touching. Unlike most people, he sees past Meeta’s quirks to who she really is.

In a movie with a character as memorable as Meeta and the theme of being true to oneself, Nikhil is a little too nebulous, especially since his character’s emotional development drives the story. It’s not clear why Nikhil is as reticent and fearful of disappointing people as he is, so his constant self-sabotage seems to come from nowhere. Even his final decision is forced on him more than it is self-generated.

Malhotra performs well as Nikhil, but he’s hampered by the way his character is written. He’s also too conventionally handsome for the part. When Devesh rhetorically asks what Karishma sees in him, it’s obvious: he makes nice arm candy at industry parties, in addition to being irrationally devoted to her.

There are several entertaining supporting characters in the film, none more so than Nikhil’s cousin, Abhinandan, who once almost became a contestant on “Indian Idol.” He sings and shimmies, hoping to impress Meeta, who barely notices him. One could make the case that he’d be as devoted a partner to Meeta as Nikhil, even if he’s not her intellectual equal.

The other component keeping Hasee Toh Phasee from perfection is the story structure. It starts too slowly, and the flow is interrupted along the way. Many scenes are too long relative to the degree that they show character development or move the story forward.

That said, Hasee Toh Phasee is worth checking out for its progressive female lead character, who’s both smart and pretty, even in jeans and a hoodie. That she’s played by a superstar in the making is an added bonus.

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