We’re adding some curry to our Turkey with India’s mega-action explosion, War.
I didn’t want to finish out our leftovers season without covering the Bollywood bases. Three gigantic action flicks came out of India within the last year, each crazier than the last. Picking a target ended up being easier than I thought.
The first film, Saaho, stars our Baahubali man-crush, Prahbas…but it was dunked on by critics (8% fresh!) and runs 3 hours. The last, Baaghi 3, has an even worse perfect 0%, and is the sequel to the face-meltingly bad Baaghi 2. So War, with its 69% rating and 2 1/2 hour run time, easily won the contest.
War (Nov. 2019)
An Indian soldier (Tiger Shroff) is assigned to eliminate his former mentor (Hritik Roshan) and he must keep his wits about him if he is to be successful in his mission. When the two men collide, it results in a barrage of battles and bullets.
I figured War would be bad. I had a faint hope, after hitting the “so bad it’s good” lottery with Iron Mask, that War might also be one of those delightful misfires that entertains. Turns out neither of my expectations were correct. War is a legit, good action movie.
Many Indian action flicks of the recent past we’ve covered have been complete dumpster fires. Alarmingly, they’ve been the exact same, cookie-cutter dumpster fires. Like lots of 80’s action movies in the US, it seems that India keeps trying to make the same film over and over. War definitely fits into that mold…but manages not to burn the cookies.
Everything you expect from a Bollywood action flick is here: super macho leads who always start a scene by removing their sunglasses and/or shirt while eye-fucking the camera; gigantic action spectacles over and over; song and dance scenes dropped into the story out of nowhere; hyper nationalism. The weird thing is that it all works in War, where it felt ludicrous in other films.
The Power of Two?
I cannot for the life of me completely explain why War hangs together where other films crumbled. I want to say that having two superstar leads (from different eras) goes a long way towards an explanation. Whereas having too many stars mugging for top macho billing sank Race 3, here it leads to a race to the top.
Tiger Shroff can’t simply stare down the camera in between amazing fight scenes here because Hrithik Roshan actually does both the stare down and fighting as well if not better. This means they both have to actually act, on top of going all out on their action scenes. It actually improved my opinion of Shroff as an actor immensely, and it made me want to go track down Roshan’s other films since he really impressed me.
The Plot Thickens.
Another arrow in War’s quiver is that it has a smartly plotted story. That’s not to say that it’s a smart story – it is in fact a fairly unoriginal story when it comes to the broad strokes. But it’s a damn solid story, and director Siddharth Anand uses the cat and mouse dynamic of the plot to set up tons of creative action sequences in a way that makes you eagerly anticipate whatever crazy thing is coming next instead of feeling like an anvil got dropped on you.
Faster and Furious-er.
I guess I’d have to say that War feels like India’s answer to The Fast and The Furious. The later movies. The good ones. The ones where they got smarter than just smashing action sequences against your eyeballs and actually started leaning into the on-set chemistry and trying to tell a coherent (if bonkers) story. It’s got the gigantic personalities, the gonzo action, and enough cloak and dagger story elements to keep you engrossed. I can’t really ask for anything more.