Continuing my recent theme of “romantic movies” here at the ol’ Litterbox, it’s time for a look at the second film in my recent “double feature movie nite” with my sweetie, the Bollywood Action/ Romance mash-up “Commando: A One Man Army”. What? You say Kick-boxing isn’t a major plot element in your romantic movies? Hmmmm?.. Maybe that explained my sweet Carolyn’s somewhat bemused smile when this one hit the DVD player… Hehehe!!
Our synopsis goes like this: “Caught on Chinese territory after an accidental helicopter crash and branded a spy, Commando Karanveer Dogra (Vidyut Jammwal) is disowned by his country because a politician reasons that siding with Karanveer would be damaging to the Indo-Chinese relations. After spending a brutal year in imprisonment Karanveer escapes and crosses the border trying to get to his base Pathankot. En-route he bumps into damsel-in-distress, Simrit (Pooja Chopra), on the run from local gangster Amrit Kanwal aka AK74 (Jaideep Ahlawat) with political aspirations who wants to marry her to satisfy his unwholesome lust for both political power and Simrit’s undeniable beauty. Despite his desire to stay uninvolved, Karan finds himself the only one capable of fighting AK47’s gang on behalf of both Simrit and the people of her province…. and protecting both is the inescapable duty and mission of a commando.”
Oooohhh! Well… Neko does like her kickboxing…. and it’s always fun to see the whole “Rambo” story through yet another “cultural filter”. Alright… alright, sign me up. Sigh… If only Hindi DVD’s weren’t so crazy cheap…. 😉
Wanna hear if this odd little slice of Bollywood flavored action might also be something you can’t pass up? Then what are we waiting for? Let’s “Read On”…!!
Now the Trailer for this one…. Well… let’s just say I’ve been keeping an eye open for this film for a while now. Bollywood tends to embrace those fluffy romantic comedies and musical extravaganzas that they used to be known for. But… Hey… they do make other films too. I’ve already discovered their horror films… and apparently they wanna get in on the whole Martial Art genre too.
Now to actually accomplish that, you first need a skilled Martial Artist that can actually handle the acting chores too, and… it certainly doesn’t help if they aren’t too hard on the eyes as well. 😉
Having seen this one, I can definitely say Vidyut Jammwal certainly qualifies for all those requirements. (Although he is probably the yummiest looking bit of commando “eye candy” to come along movie-wise in quite a while… and probably most likely to be voted “Calvin Klein Underwear Model of the Year” than any other rough tough army guy this wee Catgirl has ever seen.)
I will admit… I hadn’t really expected much from this one in the way of novel plots or amazing acting. Bollywood films run the gamut from being really good, well done polished efforts to some pretty darn primitive “craptastic” ones. I expected this one to fall somewhere in the middle, my real interest in seeing if the Hindi film industry had finally managed to digest the whole Martial Art/ action genre sufficiently enough to churn out something of value. In that… I’d have to say “Commando” succeeds on the whole.
The story is a simple one. After the brutal prologue to our story, our hero has come to hate the corruption and duplicity of a political system that caused him to be abandoned and tortured and which seemingly fails to protect the very country and people he has sworn his life to defend, from even the criminals within their own nation. So what’s he going to do about it? Why take that stand for Justice himself… and kick some serious ass in the process. Oh…. and naturally fall in love with a spunky little firebrand of a girl in the process. 😉
Does that mean we’re in for some singing and dancing and those smoldering fantasy dance sequences Bollywood just can’t make a movie without? Yes… yes… but thankfully they only get into that a couple of times, reserving most of our screen time for the punishing Martial Art action to be had. There it’s easy to see somebody in Mumbai has been watching Thailand to see just how that is to be done. Hopefully they’ll keep that up… it’s a worthwhile idea.
I’m not familiar with whatever brand of hand-to-hand mayhem our hero uses throughout, but it involves lots and lots of kickboxing moves along with plenty of amazing grappling attacks and punishing take-downs. There are guns to be seen, but mostly in the hands of our bad guys, while Vidyut himself prefers to simply go all hardcore “Tony Jaa” on these thugs, disdaining the use of such weapons. Somewhat surprising given our hero’s military background and the veritable army of villains he has to deal with, but the film and story mostly makes it work.
So… what about the romance? Well… the character of our heroine, Simrit (played by newcomer Pooja Chopra) is both spunky, feisty, and outspoken… while not to mention pretty darn sexy…. and is definitely not your usual Bollywood heroine by any means. Carolyn and I both really liked her from the beginning… and in scenes with Vidyut she comes across as both likeable and fun. Unfortunately Vidyut himself plays Karan as that manly Hindi solemn idea of macho that just never quite lets you believe there is much real attraction or fire for Simrit on his part. That gives this whole romance a definitely one sided feeling overall. A shame given how much potential is there. Worse too… disappointingly by mid point as our story moves along, feisty Simrit loses some of that “girl power” she shows at first to become nothing more than the usual Hindi stock character of the helpless damsel-in-distress needing our hero to save her rather than becoming his equal in saving her people and defeating our evil menace. Darn, darn, darn….
Well… so what’s so darn scary about our “Evil Menace” anyway? Well… as drug dealing psychopaths go Amrit Kanwal aka “AK74” (played by Jaideep Ahlawat) is pretty darn evil…. and certifiably “bat shit crazy”… but for the life of me I can’t really understand why he needs to become the Provincial Governor when he’s already got all the money he needs to buy any politician he needs or any sexy bimbo he’d like for fun and games. Is it because of those creepy dead eyes? Does that mean he really is the spawn of the Devil like local stories say… Darned if I know. Luckily for our story though, he’s the kind of idiot who can’t seem to know when he’s well off or just when to quit. That means he’ll keep throwing his poorly trained army of thugs at our hero till Karan wipes every one of them out. Now that’s how you do an action movie… Hehehe!!! 😉
Eventually… as might be expected… he does get a bit concerned about how badly things are going, and reports Karan to the corrupt minister that originally sold our hero out to the Chinese. He of course sends the crooked local cops after him in the guise of taking out a rogue soldier “gone terrorist” as well as trying to have our story’s version of Colonel Trautman, para-commando Colonel Sinha (played by Darshan Jariwala) bring in his troops to finish him off. Heck… even the Chinese want in on the finale… sending along a nasty kickboxing hired assassin for the big boss battle at our films climax. Yep… our hero Karan’s one busy guy by the film’s end.
Sound like a fairly simple action-er with some heavy “borrowing” from a few other films you might know? Well… “Commando: A One Man Army” is indeed that, but it’s all done with a fairly polished style and some top notch fighting scenes that you just don’t get to see in Hindi film. If the romantic side of the film had been more poignant and touching they really might have had a winner here but somehow it just didn’t gel well enough in that department. A real shame too, since both the leads are excellent in this one too… but chemistry is chemistry and when it isn’t there it can’t be faked. Had Simrit got all feisty and taken a hand in saving our hero at the climax to cement their unspoken desire for each other…. well maybe it would have felt differently, but hey, missed opportunities…. and Hindi movie heroines are rarely allowed to rise to such an occasion.
All in all though…. as seen as a novel experiment to try to do a Western style action film with the punch of the best Martial Art fare coming out of Asia these days, I can fairly give “Commando” a firm 3 “Meows” out of 5. It was a nice change of pace from the usual such films we watch, and I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes out for more efforts featuring both Vidyut Jammwal and Pooja Chopra who impressed both Carolyn and I favorably with their efforts in this one.
The DVD? I saw this one on the Hindi domestic DVD release, All Region NTSC formatted widescreen with the impeccably perfect English subtitles that normally accompany Hindi films, At 6-10$ US, it’s a definite “must see” if you like your Martial Arts action the way a certain goofy Catgirl does.
But…. I guess this still leaves me and my sweetie waitin’ to see some tender romantic lovin’ on “Movie Nite”… Guess I’ll just have to hope my next film fares better in that regard. 😉
Do I have a Trailer? Oh heck yes… and chock full with all the butt-kicking Martial Art action you’d expect… Enjoy!