This past Friday I realized I no longer need to re-watch the Rambo movies to vicariously relive the 80s/90s. Nor do I have to sit through noble but overcooked attempts to revive such awesome cinema (cough cough, The Expendables).
Besides the past two Die Hard movies which kept the fading genre alive, nothing has come close to recreating the magic found in high-octane 80s/90s action movies. Alas I decided to check out Commando. No, not the fantastic Schwarzenneger-starrer.
Instead I am referring to the new Bollywood release whose trailer got me nostalgic and excited. With the presence of Force villain Vidyut Jamwal and Jaideep Ahlawat from Gangs of Wasseypur, it was natural to expect competent action and performances. Besides, as much as I was anticipating the Jackie Robinson biopic 42, I needed a break from baseball after the Blue Jays’ dismal Opening Week.
The story follows Captain Karanvir Dogra (Vidyut Jamwal) after his army jet crashes into the Chinese territory during a routine training. He then becomes a prisoner of the Chinese government as they assume he is an Indian spy. Karanvir protests that his arrival on Sino territory was due to an accident during a routine flight, not because he was sent by the Indian government to infiltrate China. Due to the absence of the crash wreckage, the Chinese brand him a spy to embarrass the Indian Government. Instead of shedding the false label that Dogra is a spy through substantial evidence, the Indian Defense Minister also decides to play politics by wiping out every record of the elite Commando’s existence. After suffering as a prisoner for a year, Karan then escapes by crossing into Himachal Pradesh from the Lepcha Border.
Upon entering Punjab from Himachal Pradesh he saves the talkative Simrit (Pooja Chopra) from A.K. Singh’s (Jaideep Ahlawat) thugs. A.K. is the head of a political mafia that oppresses its constituents. Forcibly marrying a girl from a respectable family, Simrit, would do wonders for his rising political career. When finding out that the men after Simrit are of immense political stature, Karan decides to make Simrit’s battle his own. This is because the type of public official who left Karan to rot in China usually begins his political career as a tyrannical criminal. Hence, by defeating A.K. he feels the corrupt system can slowly be cleansed. Plus the fact that the Police only guarantee the safety of such thugs and not people they oppress further motivates Dogra. How the hero rescues the damsel in distress and her tyrannized town forms the rest of the story.
First off, Commando is a movie for die-hard action fans. While there are some political overtones, it is not Doug Liman’s Green Zone. This film is perfect for a bro-out session so keep your wives and girlfriends away. If they can digest Chinese torture tactics and gruesome combat, by all means this would be the perfect date movie.
The stunts done by Jamwal, the dialogues, and slick direction more than make up for the predictable plot. However, there is nothing wrong selling the same goods in a different package especially since nothing like this has been attempted in Indian cinema. Clearly the Director grew up on a steady diet of Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenneger movies. While in Hollywood this genre is barely surviving, the Screenwriter and Director deserve props for making the old new again.
The real technical star of the film is Cinematographer Sejal Shah who makes the rural locales, jungles, and great stunts visually enticing. Action Director Franz Spilhaus’s stunt coordination and fight sequences are second to none. Don’t believe me? Just watch the trailer above. With the exception of the Daler Mehndi song, the music and background score are not all catchy.
As for the performances, Vidyut Jamwal shows why Producer Vipul Amrutlal Shah has banked on him for the second time. His acting is praiseworthy as he effortlessly encompasses both the hard and soft sides of Karanvir Dogra. Jaideep Ahlawat is simply flawless as the creepy and sadistic A.K. He holds his own against an already mainstream star; much like Jamwal did in Force against John Abraham. Debutante Pooja Chopra will either evoke memories of the chatty Basanti from Sholay or she will come off as irritating to some. The supporting cast does its job aptly. Jagat Rawat as A.K.’s right hand man M.P. and Sohrab Handa as Simrit’s father are superb.
After being the one who could stand eye to eye with Action Abraham in Force, Vidyut Jamwal has set the bar high for Desi action heroes. With the ability of Tony Jaa and the suaveness of Jason Statham, VJ is here to stay. Do not miss Commando if you call yourself a true action buff!