Tag Archives: Sonakshi Sinha

Movie Review: Force 2 (2016)

force23 Stars (out of 4)

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John Abraham’s Inspector Yash returns for Force 2, a more straightforward action flick than its romance-heavy predecessor. Intriguing international locations and a solid cast make this a fitting follow-up to 2011’s terrific thriller.

Five years after the murder of his wife Maya (Genelia D’Souza), Yash is drawn into another conspiracy. Someone is assassinating agents of RAW (India’s CIA, essentially) working in China, using information from within the organization to locate targets.

One of those agents is a childhood friend of Yash’s who managed to send an encoded message to his buddy before his death. The leak within RAW works at the Indian embassy in Budapest. The call to action jars Yash out of his vivid hallucinations of Maya and back into reality.

RAW isn’t about to let Yash tear apart Hungary on his own personal revenge mission. He’s assigned to work under the supervision of agent KK (Sonakshi Sinha), who has contacts in Budapest.

There’s some back-and-forth about the superiority of investigation methods preferred by each law enforcement branch — patient data collection by RAW versus gut feelings by the police — but this ends quickly. KK showcases her reliable instincts and Yash his observation skills, even if some of his investigation methods are unorthodox. KK describes her hair-triggered partner as “a bit wayward.”

Maya’s presence in the story — if only in Yash’s mind — precludes a romance between Yash and KK, allowing their relationship to develop based on professional camaraderie and trust. Abraham and Sinha have a nice rapport, and it’s satisfying to watch their characters learn that they are more effective working together than independently.

For as important a character as KK is, it would’ve been nice to see more of her backstory. At one point, I thought a subtitle read that the film’s villain was her fiance. It’s never mentioned again, so maybe I misread it. Subtitle pacing is a periodic problem, and some crucial voiceovers aren’t subtitled at all.

Sinha acquits herself well in the action sequences, and her character’s casual wardrobe in the second half of the film is killer. Abraham looks great at all times (one of the perks of his being a producer on Force 2).

Undoubtedly, the most compelling performance is by Tahir Raj Bhasin, who plays the villain Shiv Sharma. Bhasin has a threatening stare that he uses liberally, whether Shiv intends to convey his murderous intent overtly or disguise it behind a benign expression. There’s always something chilling about him.

Director Abhinay Deo of Delhi Belly fame has fun with the action scenes. He has Yash swing KK around as a weapon in one close-quarters fight. During a ballroom shoot-out, Deo films the events from Yash’s perspective as if it were a first-person-shooter video game. It’s really well-executed.

Though not as uniquely memorable as Force, Force 2 is still fun, violent action fare. I’d be happy to watch a third Force film.

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Movie Review: Naam Hai Akira (2016)

NaamHaiAkira0.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Naam Hai Akira is an endurance test, a fight to stay in one’s seat and finish the film instead of leaving the theater to do anything else. The movie is a disorganized, demoralizing disaster.

Naam Hai Akira (known as just Akira in India) is a remake of a Tamil film by Santha Kumar called Mouna Guru, a hit remade in two other languages besides Hindi. I haven’t seen the original, so I have no idea if it’s as messy as its Hindi remake. However, Naam Hai Akira is directed and co-written by A. R. Murugadoss, the man who screwed up Ghajini, his remake of the great film Memento. I’m inclined to place the blame on Murugadoss.

Murugadoss’s film swaps the gender of the film’s protagonist, a move that would seem progressive, if, again, the director didn’t screw it up so royally. Akira (Sonakshi Sinha) is first introduced as an adult, kneeling in the woods with a gun pointed at her head. Then the movie flashes back either three years or fourteen years — the movie contradicts itself — to Akira as a pre-teen in Jodhpur.

Little Akira witnesses a pair of young men throw acid in the face of a teen girl who rejects their advances. Akira reports them to the police, who let the men go because of their families’ political connections. After the men cut Akira’s face in retaliation, her father (played by Atul Kulkarni, who needs to play dad roles more often) enrolls her in karate class so she can learn to defend herself.

Ah yes, self-defense classes — the go-to solution to the problem of violence against women by those who don’t want to admit that men are the problem. It goes hand-in-hand with the notions that women can prevent rape by not wearing mini-skirts or by invoking God’s name when begging not to be raped.

Akira has to walk by an all-girls dance class to get to her all-boys-but-one karate class, just in case we’ve forgotten what society expects of girls. When she and her dad spot the same men harassing other women, Dad encourages her to beat the crap out of them. She uses her karate superpowers to do so, in the process splashing the bottle of acid intended for her onto the face of the main perpetrator.

Akira’s punishment for daring to confront sexual harassment is to spend the rest of her childhood in juvenile detention. The lesson of the movie is that violence is the province of men, and women who choose to use it will be punished and ultimately forced to martyr themselves to maintain a social order in which they are eternal, powerless victims.

There’s a lot of boring stuff that has to happen before we get to that completely depressing conclusion. As an adult, Akira is forced by her brother Ajay to move to Mumbai to live with him, his nasty wife, and their mother. This isn’t really clear, but it seems as though Ajay and Mom think Akira was wrong to stand up to those men years ago, and that her use of violence is a sign of some kind of mental defect. That’s the only way to explain what eventually happens, but again, it’s not clear at all.

This despite the fact that Akira is completely timid. She hardly speaks, and she consents to anything anyone asks of her. She only retaliates if someone physically attacks her first.

When the plot catches up to that opening scene in the woods, it takes a series of unbelievable mishaps before Akira even thinks about trying to escape. She just sits there — gun pointed at her forehead — while her would-be killers discuss the phone call they just got from their boss. They want to confirm the plan with him, but their cell phone died, so they leave one guy behind to guard Akira and another prisoner. They call their boss from a payphone, but then their van breaks down. Then they ride a bike back to the guy with the gun.

The whole freaking time, Akira just sits there, waiting to die. Only when the other prisoner makes a break for it does she try to get away. Never has an action hero possessed so little initiative or sense of self-preservation.

That scene is par for the course. Everything is spelled out in excruciating detail. In another sequence, one character says (in essence), “We need to file a missing persons report and name Inspector Manik in it.” Cut to a shot in the police station with Manik and his crooked coworkers, one of whom says, “They filed a missing persons report and named Manik in it.”

There’s a whole other storyline about a quartet of corrupt cops, led by a detective played by Anurag Kashyap, who’s one of the only good things about this movie (Akira’s wardrobe is the other). So much time is spent on the cops that Akira’s barely in half of the movie. When she gets mixed up in their crime by mistake, it’s because of moronic reasons that depend on everyone being as stupid as possible.

It’s hard to find the cops all that menacing anyway, since they are terrible at covering up their crime, foolishly involving dozens of people instead of just killing those who know and dumping the bodies in another jurisdiction. This is Corrupt Movie Cops 101.

Nothing happens in Naam Hai Akira unless by happenstance or plain idiocy, and all of it takes frigging forever. Sinha could be a fine action star, but she needs a better movie than this. Good grief, it’s so awful.

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Opening September 2: Naam Hai Akira

The action flick Naam Hai Akira — starring Sonakshi Sinha — opens in the Chicago area on September 2, 2016. In India, the film is releasing as simply Akira. If you’re going to have a separate international title, why not make it in English in the hopes of attracting a wider audience, especially since the movie has such an evocative poster?

Naam Hai Akira opens on Friday at MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 19 min.

Rustom carries over for a fourth week at the South Barrington 30 and MovieMax, which also holds over A Flying Jatt, Happy Bhag Jayegi, and Mohenjo Daro.

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend:

Movie Review: Tevar (2015)

Tevar_Official_Poster2 Stars (out of 4)

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Arjun Kapoor’s lead character seems more like an interruption than a necessary element of Tevar (“Attitude“).

Don’t get me wrong: as the story is constructed, the fate of Sonakshi Sinha’s character, Radhika, depends entirely upon Kapoor’s Pintu. That’s because Radhika is the most embarrassingly helpless character Sinha has played yet, which is saying something. Instead of a hapless plot device, I wish she’d been capable of saving herself — rendering Pintu altogether unnecessary.

Because Tevar is just another formulaic, hero-driven, Bollywood action flick, the movie opens with a lengthy introduction of Pintu. Surprise, surprise: he’s a slacker who just wants to hang out with his buddies, who repeatedly tell him how cool he is. As is typical in such films, his only flaw is a lack of a girlfriend. Not that he couldn’t get one if he wanted one. He just doesn’t want some chick to cut into his bro time.

Once Pintu’s intro is over, we get to the movie that I really wanted to see. Manoj Bajpayee plays Gajendar, a goon who does the dirty work for his older brother, a politician played by Rajesh Sharma. Gajendar falls madly in love with Radhika when he sees her dance in a concert.

On the advice of his sidekick, Kakdi (Subrat Dutta), Gajendar tries to impress the much younger Radhika, doffing his sweater vest in favor of jeans and a motorcycle jacket. The attempt fails. Gajendar is further humiliated by Radhika’s reporter brother, who threatens to take down both Gajendar and his brother if he contacts Radhika again.

Here’s what I wanted from Tevar: Gajendar tries to pretend he’s something he’s not in order to win Radhika. When that doesn’t work, he resorts to his old, violent ways. Radhika has to figure out how to stop Gajendar and save her family. Why shouldn’t the heroine be the one with “attitude” for a change?

What I got was Radhika waiting helplessly for someone to rescue her. Pintu just happens to get there first. Whenever Radhika takes control of her own destiny, she does something idiotic like leave her hiding place to check on the well-being of Pintu, who is essentially invincible.

That invincibility neuters all the fight sequences. Stuff breaks and people go flying, but the scenes lack gravity and danger. The epic eye roll Gajendar gives when Pintu rises from what should’ve been a mortal blow is spot on.

Pintu’s invincibility is such a powerful aphrodisiac for Radhika that’s she’s willing to abandon the complicated plan to get her to safety just to hear Pintu say, “I love you.” It’s stupid and insulting.

Sinha’s cringe-inducing performance aside, the acting in Tevar is pretty good. Kapoor is charming when the script permits him to be. Bajpayee is one of Bollywood’s go-to villains for a reason. It’s hard to take your eyes off of him.

Yet Dutta managed to steal my attention from Bajpayee on a number of occasions, not with anything flashy, but by doing little things to make Kakdi seem like a real person, not just an automaton who performs only when he’s the focus of a scene. While Gajendar is in the foreground, staring transfixed by Radhika’s dancing, Kakdi is in the background ushering people to their seats and clapping along with the music.

Dutta shows some real menace in spots, too, as when Kakdi strolls in slow motion toward Pintu, flanked by armed guards. Maybe there’s room for another go-to villain in town.

Ultimately, Tevar sublimates its unique elements in order to give us more of the same. Putting a different actor in the role of morally righteous superman doesn’t change anything.

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Opening January 9: Tevar

The first Bollywood film to hit Chicago area theaters in 2015 is Tevar, opening January 9. The action drama stars Manoj Bajpayee, Arjun Kapoor, and Sonakshi Sinha.

Tevar opens on Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, Regal Gardens Stadium 1-6 in Skokie, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 30 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 2 hrs. 30 min.

PK carries over for a fourth week at all of the above theaters (except for the River East 21), plus the AMC Loews Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

Other Indian movies playing at MovieMax this weekend include Gopala Gopala (Telugu), Nagaravaridhi Naduvil Njan (Malayalam), Mukunda (Telugu), Chinnadana Nee Kosam (Telugu), and Lingaa (Tamil).

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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New Trailer: November 11, 2014

Sonakshi Sinha is imperiled yet again in Tevar, which releases theatrically on January 9, 2015. This time, she needs to be saved from Manoj Bajpayee by Arjun Kapoor. Kudos to Subrat Dutta for landing roles in seemingly every movie these days: Bheera in Roar, the eccentric director in The Shaukeens, and now one of Manoj’s henchmen in Tevar. Check out the trailer: