“RRR (Rise Roar Revolt)”
Metacritic (3/10), Letterboxd (1.5/5), Imdb.com (3/10)
The Bollywood style of filmmaking has, arguably, become a distinct genre all its own, characterized by long, visually dazzling movies filled with action sequences on steroids, hyper-energized music video segments (regardless if relevant to the story), and glamorously designed costumes, hair and makeup. It’s definitely an acquired taste and eminently commercial, but it’s not exactly something one could characterize as epic, groundbreaking cinema. Which is why I’m stunned by all of the attention and awards season buzz that’s being showered on this over-the-top offering, one that’s fairly typical of releases in this genre. In this hypothetical “what if” tale about a fictitious meeting between a pair of Indian freedom fighters who struggled against brutal British colonial rule (and who never met in real life), writer-director S.S. Rajamouli takes viewers on a whirlwind action-adventure saga that’s preposterous, predictable, clichéd, at times juvenile, and, above all, exhausting by the time one reaches the end of its 3+-hour runtime. The trite dialogue, corny narrative, cheesy CGI effects (particularly the film’s wild animals) and monodimensional characters (most notably the big bad Brits who come across more like caricatures than villains) are all laughable, almost as much as the film’s fight sequences, which play like scenes from the “John Wick” and “Matrix” franchises with a dash of martial arts flicks thrown in for good measure. In fact, were it not for the seemingly incessant runtime, this might qualify as one of those good “bad” offerings for a group movie night, though the film becomes tiresome about an hour in and can’t adequately sustain that sense of high camp for more than 180 minutes. In its defense, the picture’s choreography in the musical sequences is commendable (if at times it’s like watching a protracted aerobics class), and the costumes, art direction and set design are all noteworthy (save, of course, for a shattered marble railing in one scene that looks like the Styrofoam from which it appears to have been made). Given all of the foregoing, however, I’m truly perplexed why this release has been singled out from the other films in this genre as the beneficiary of such generous awards season recognition, perhaps other than the fact that it has been a huge box office hit worldwide, which may well have something to do with that. But is that milestone enough to drive the ample bestowing of such accolades? Remember, popcorn may qualify as a great snack, but it certainly does not a meal make.