An Action Hero Review
The title is perfectly appropriate. An Action Hero's fleeing protagonist is 'an' action hero, not 'any' action hero. And this is no ordinary action picture. Anirudh Iyer uses genre conventions to produce a film that is both visceral and cerebral in a rare cinematic osmosis.
Both the film and the main individual at its heart are unique. They are unlike anything or anyone else that Indian viewers have seen in recent years.
Rarely has a Bollywood action film been this entertaining, and even fewer times has a Hindi film satirised the genre with such wit and grace. It takes its job seriously, yet it never stops laughing at itself and the big-screen thrill-seekers.
In the opening sequence, one of two RAW agents arrives in London to question Mumbai megastar Maanav (Ayushmann Khurrana), who tells the duo during the interrogation: "We're not sure whether to laugh at or be annoyed by the childishness of the yarn that you have spun."
The answer is already known. Given the narrative's jaunty pace, the high-spirited set pieces that An Action Hero delivers as it unfolds at a heady pace, and the constant flow of provocative and topical ideas about showbiz, justice, and nationhood, there's little doubt that the audience will choose the former over the latter reaction.
Anirudh Iyer deserves credit for shedding light on films, television news channels, mass entertainment consumers, and the making and unmaking of heroes and villains in "the new India." Many strong statements about the times we live in and the people we are collectively are couched in fascinating capsules that help the punches land with precision, strength, and palatability.
Maanav is an Everyman Superstar, if such a dichotomous term is even tenable when referring to a movie star with a massive fanbase and enormous clout.
Maanav accidentally murders a politically connected Haryana fan who had waited for hours to take a photograph with the celebrity and loses his cool when the celebrity leaves the area without meeting the man's demand.
In a hurry, Maanav flees to the United Kingdom. Bhoora Singh Solanki (Jaideep Ahlawat), the victim's elder brother and the power-crazed councilman of Haryana's Mandothi village, follows him to London and vows vengeance. The narrative juggles the genre's known norms and pokes fun at them as it gallops forward at a smooth and even rate, surprising us at nearly every turn.
The frantic chase leads not only to lively action sequences, chases, and stunts staged across the UK - Maanav fights for his life outside his London home, in a stranger's pad's kitchen, out in the countryside, and on a boat sailing up the Thames - but also to a number of revelations about the nature of stardom, movie fans, power dynamics, codes of honour, and ill-directed masculinity.
An Action Hero has a hero and a villain, but neither has a romantic interest in the former, which is a courageous and appropriate departure from tradition that fits the film well. It prevents it from straying from its intended course.
An Action Hero is not a one-trick pony. Apart from focusing on a vengeful muscleman, it delves into the ways of the affluent and powerful who don't give a damn what the rest of the world thinks of their heinous and destructive activities.
An Action Hero, in a telling way, concentrates on a collision of entitlements. A Hollywood star will not tolerate a week's delay in receiving a Mustang that he has reserved. After discovering his brother's lifeless body, a village-level politician will not take no for an answer from the officer in charge of the local police station.