Tag Archives: Freddy Daruwala

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: Holiday (2014)

Holiday_-_A_Soldier_Is_Never_Off_Duty_(poster)2 Stars (out of 4)

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Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty is an unapologetically patriotic film. Sadly, the flag-waving gets in the way of the plot and ultimately makes the film feel exploitative.

Writer-director A.R. Murugadoss puts himself in a pickle by making a standard issue one-man-wrecking-crew character into a government official. Akshay Kumar plays Virat, an army officer who’s also a covert agent of the D.I.A. (Defense Intelligence Agency).

He’s not a rogue agent or an officer who’s been wrongly accused and is trying to clear his name. As far as the movie explains, Virat is an agent of good standing working within the chain of command.

Virat interrupts his military leave to single-handedly dismantle a terrorist organization planning to bomb Mumbai. Virat tortures suspects, endangers civilians and his fellow officers, and coordinates complicated missions entirely outside of the justice system and without ever informing a superior officer of his actions.

If, as happens in the movie, a solitary D.I.A. or C.I.A. agent coordinated the public executions of a dozen people before a crime had been committed and without first trying to apprehend the suspects, everyone from the head of the Defense Department to the President would descend on that agent like the wrath of God. And what citizen in a democracy wants individual government agents to have the power to decide who lives and who dies without due process?

But there’s no time for ethical questions in Holiday because Virat needs to get married! As is the case for the protagonist in every one-man-wrecking-crew/supercop movie, Virat’s only character flaw is that he starts the movie without a girlfriend. He falls in love with Saiba (Sonakshi Sinha), who is only interesting for the duration of a dance number that showcases her athleticism. She spends the rest of the movie begging Virat to kiss her.

Holiday would’ve made more sense tonally had the first half been devoted to Virat romancing Saiba and the second half devoted to the terror plot. Instead, Murugadoss asks the audience to change gears on a moment’s notice. Ignore the fact that we just watched a bus full of children explode and cue the wacky sound effects: here’s Virat’s dim-witted Army commander, and he’s played by Govinda!

As with the wacky sound effects, Murugadoss always makes it explicit what emotions he’s trying to provoke. To instill fear, characters utter the phrase “sleeper cell” about a million times. There’s a lengthy montage of families saying tearful good-byes to soldiers as they ship out and a needless scene set in a home for wounded veterans. Since there’s absolutely zero chance that a character played by Akshay Kumar will be permanently maimed or killed in the course of a movie, these scenes feel like exploitation.

The movie also goes out of its way to paint police officers as less noble than army officers. Virat’s best friend, Mukund (Sumeet Raghavan), is a cop, and Virat spends most of the movie explaining the basics of terrorist cells to him. (Apparently, police don’t get any training in counter-terrorism, since it’s not like they’re the front line of defense in attacks on major metropolitan areas or anything.) Mukund responds by praising the selflessness and bravery of soldiers, as though police-work is totally safe.

Though the unnamed terrorist leader (played by Freddy Daruwala) comes up with some clever schemes, he fails to make use of the most obvious way to get to Virat. He threatens a bunch of Virat’s fellow soldiers, but never Mukund or Saiba, even though that’s who Virat spends all his time with.

In Holiday‘s defense, the fight scenes are better than those in most Hindi action movies, and there are a couple of catchy song-and-dance numbers. Besides that, Holiday is a potentially entertaining thriller wasted on behalf of a political agenda.

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