Not rated because it is a Bollywood movie, so it doesn't necessarily fall under the MPAA. But this is a movie that mostly deals with superhero level absurd violence. I would put it on par with a Fast and the Furious movie, probably one of the later ones, that has over the top, almost hilarious violence that is in no way realistic. There is a scene where a character is tortured and crucified that is a bit gory.
DIRECTOR: S.S. Rajamouli
I'm going to come across as so closed-minded in this blog. I know it. As many movies as I watch, I really keep away from Bollywood. Part of that phobia comes from not liking what little experience I've had with these movies and the other half comes from the sheer number of Bollywood movies out there. I'm not an expert at Bollywood as a genre (which I will be treating as a genre as opposed to traditionally Indian cinema). And because I don't really like Bollywood, I didn't really like this. (Man, I'm having a bunch of negative blogs in a row. It's exhausting.)
I'm going to use "melodrama" as a dirty word. It's a shame, because I have based so many of my passions on melodrama. Serialized television is entirely based on melodrama. The things that move me to tears? Melodrama. It's the bread and butter of most storytelling (I'm making that statistic up, but I'm sure there's a kernel of truth in that statement). RRR, and, by proxy, Bollywood, live and breathe melodrama. But while the melodrama I like tends to lie to me about what rings true / employs verisimilitude, RRR is trying to pull on my heartstrings with such a degree of absurdity that I tend to be laughing at the product as opposed to laughing with the product. It's funny, because I get the vibe that RRR might be one of the best productions of a Bollywood film, so me laughing at the movie might be in bad form. Because for all of the absurdity, of people launching themselves off of bridges and fist-fighting tigers, there's a story of two people on the opposite sides of the law finding friendship. I can see why some people really jump after this movie (much like a horse and a motorcycle coupled by a long rope) because there is something there.
But is there something three-hours there? I don't understand the Bollywood tendency to make everything an epic. (Again, wildly ignorant. There are incredibly frustrated people out there yelling at me to stop talking about something I know little about.) Fundamentally, this is a simple story that keeps adding plot points simply for the sake of extending the story. At its core, there's a real story there to unpack. There's the police officer who has to fight harder than any other police officer (but because it's Bollywood, he can quell a riot single-handedly) and the freedom fighter who is against colonization. But both of these characters lose sight at what should be a fundamentally character-driven story. Because the movie wants both characters to be in the right, Raju (who is far too handsome to exist) has to be secretly a freedom fighter as well. Similarly, Bheem (who is oddly significantly less handsome than Raju. Sorry, Bheem!) has to make it about saving a little girl's life the entire time. Now, the movie is begging for a reckoning. To a certain extent, the movie grants us this collision. Raju does eventually abandon the pretense of being a police officer for the sake of Bheem. But Raju also has crossed so many lines that the moment of change doesn't make a ton of sense.
Raju's entire mission, according to the absurd storytelling, is to gain access to military weapons (this movie is so pro-gun that I had to check my own privilege while watching it) so that the people can survive the aggressive colonization by Great Britain. (Okay, I can get behind that, even if the British come across like comic book villains. Okay, the British probably were comic book villains. I'm more cool with this than I care to admit.) But the introduction to Raju as a character is one based in cruelty. Buxton comments about his fear of Raju. His cruelty displayed in the middle of a riot causes him to recoil in fear. (Maybe it wasn't Buxton. It felt like it was an older dude.) It is only because Bheem is his friend that he abandons his quest. Now, this is the hero of our story. While Bheem is one of the protagonists, his heroism is crystal clear. But Raju? Raju does so much evil and it's not like the payoff is so overwhelming that problems just solve themselves. When Raju and Bheem decide to go Super Saiyan and take on the entire military, they defeat the colonizers. What was the darned point of going through all of the misery and literal flaggelation if they could just punch their way out of the mess?
Here's me being catty. I'm sick of trying to add lofty ambitions to this blog and sometimes I just need to vent. What did Jenny see in Bheem? I mean, the obvious is that Raju was right there and she should have been weak-in-the-knees for that moustache alone. As audience members, we know that Raju is spoken for and also it makes it more interesting if she's interested in Bheem. But from a practical perspective, Jenny meets Raju and Bheem at the same time. Raju can speak English. Bheem cannot. Raju is Raju and Bheem isn't Raju. But even moreso, Bheem and Jenny have nothing to talk about. They literally are in love over the concept of being in the same space at the same time. Jenny is this confident colonizer (that we just let off the hook because she's more progressive than the monsters around her). Bheem just sits there making noises. That's not me being racist. He literally phonetically sounds out things that Jenny said and thinks that he's communicating. I don't know how much they can emotionally bond over the notion of him trying to speak to her. Sure, it's the same issue with The Little Mermaid, but even Ariel communicates intent more than Bheem does in this movie. The only thing that I can see being something that would bond the two is Bheem's sweet dancing, which Raju throws in an attempt to get Jenny and Bheem together. There's nothing real there. It's just a means to get a love interest in the story and to create another bond between Bheem and Raju. It's something. I'm actually amazed that Jenny makes it to the end of the movie because that actress has no business (not in a snarky way; I'm talking about stage business) for anything past the halfway marker of the film.
I told you that there would be a lot here about the role of Bollywood. So I'm going to make connections between this and the Fast and Furious movies. So one thing that I actually like about The Fast and the Furious movies is that they get more insane the further you get into the franchise. They start off as very forgettable car movies and then become these summer tentpole films where cars fly off of parking garages. I haven't watched Fast 9, but I hear that cars go into space. But those movies are about escalalation. While the laws of physics get ignored to create digital stunts, the movies try to pretend like something like that could happen. I can't believe I'm defending some of these stunts, but also I have to kill some digital space here. But when Dom and all of his buddies (ahem...family) are hanging out, the laws of physics still apply. When they are passing around food at the picnic table, the characters don't start kicking around the bowl to show that they have sweet soccer skills. RRR really goes out of its way to leave no moments where you are not being entertained.
If you are following the story of RRR, a more important moment in the film is when Bheem tries breaking Raju out of jail. Raju, in his time in prison, has gotten even more needlessly ripped (because why not?). Sorry, I get off topic. Bheem is breaking Raju out of his floor jail (which I kind of dig) and because Raju has been sitting for a few days, his legs don't work. So the movie goes out of its way to find the least effective way to transport Raju. Basically, Raju and Bheem play chicken fight against an army trying to kill them and, somehow, they are more effective while Bheem is holding onto Raju's legs than they would be independently. That was a mechanic in The Simpsons arcade game, if you remember correctly. (I say "you" because I'm confident about that mechanic.) But The Simpsons arcade game was kind of laughing at itself by including that feature. It was never meant to be taken seriously. Instead, there's this obsession with making everything absurd be treated without a sense of irony behind any of it. That's my big epiphany!
Nothing in this film is ironic! That's why I'm so annoyed by this film. I know, you can argue that the entire thing is heavily sauced in irony, but I don't think so. This movie takes itself so darned seriously. It really thinks it is about the relationship between two people on opposite sides of a conflict and how they bond in their ignorance. That's it. You are supposed to cry when Raju is whipping Bheem with a superwhip. You are supposed to be inspired when Bheem lifts Raju on his shoulders and they form a Muppet Man of killing. Yes, I liked the dance number! That's why I watched this movie! But it doesn't mean that the movie is any good. It's all because the movie is afraid of not being entertaining constantly. Movies should be at a three sometimes. It doesn't always need to be cranked up to eleven. Despite the fact that both male characters were doing things for the women in their lives, we never got to know the women in any real way because the movie was afraid to talk for two darned seconds.
Big budget Bollywood reads like drinking Mountain Dew for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack. Do you taste anything underneath the extremes of the movie? No? It's because everything is bathed in pure adrenaline and special effects. I don't want to laugh at this movie. I want to watch the movie of two guys on the opposite sides of society see each other for the first time. I don't need digital tigers and bloodshed galore. I just want characters who matter that I can relate to. Even with my Fast & Furious comparison, those movies don't really stick to the ribs. Instead, it's just cotton candy deep fried and injected into my eyeballs.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.