RRR (2022) - Awfully Good
After the last Oscar buzzmaybe we should rename this column Terribly great
Director: SS Rajamouli
Stars: NT Rama Rao Jr., Ram Charan, Ray Stevenson
IS THERE A PLOT?
In 1920s India, a young girl is kidnapped by an evil British governor, leading her village to send her unstoppable "guardian" to get her back at all costs. The ensuing trail of revenge and destruction catches the attention of an equally relentless cop and leads to a showdown that could change the fate of the country forever.
WHAT IS THE DAMAGE?
The greatest superhero movie of 2022 wasn't released by Marvel or DC. None of them came even close to the glory that is there RRR. India's international breakthrough hit - the most expensive film ever made in the country - attracted viewers from around the world and set box office records with its massive spectacle and mass appeal.
I was sick of the hype, but it's honestly the most compelling four-quadrant film I've seen in a long time, containing literally everything you could want in a film: outstanding action sequences, genuine character drama, romance AND bromance and even several musical numbers/dance-offs. and RRR delivers everything with such enthusiasm, not afraid to go big and silly or serious and sincere when the need arises. It's a movie where you'll cheer when you see someone throw a snarling leopard at a villain in the middle of a fight, and then instantly dim your eyes when the same man sings an inspirational song about human endurance.
It's not a bad film in the column's typical tradition, but the sheer excess and over-the-top ridiculousness is all I need to commend it to fans of Awfully Good.
Bonus! You might actually learn about the history of India... sort of. The story of RRR is based on real-life revolutionaries Komaram Bheem and Alluri Sitarama Raju, both of whom led rebellions against British colonizers in the 1920s and 1930s. The characters here are fictionalized versions of the actual men who never met in real life and so sadly never fought a two-man war against invading oppressors using jungle cats. Instead, writer/director SS Rajamouli posits the film as a three-hour "what if" that introduces these folk heroes on their own paths of resistance before they come together to save a kidnapped girl and start a riot in the process.
It treats the two historical figures like real superheroes with inexplicable powers and abilities. (One of the characters even gets his famous outfit/supersuit just in time for the final fight, like a traditional origin story.) This all leads to some amazing, often brutal, action scenes featuring kung fu fights, gunfights, big stunt pieces, and thrilling car chases - both on the motorcycle as well as on the horse - and all on a large scale. It's not a film that invites realism or sophistication, in the sense of what's to come Fast and Furious Movies... but with a real story and characters.
It's also all brilliantly shot and competently edited, so much so that I would kill to see what Rajamouli could do with a major Hollywood blockbuster. Although it is the most expensive film in Telugu from South India, RRR only cost 72 million dollars. Can you imagine what this director could do with $200 million?
I know this is bad style for an internet writer, but if you have any interest in this movie at all, I urge you to read this article right now and just experience it RRR for yourself. It contains some of the craziest stuff you'll see on celluloid all year, and it's best discovered cold. However, if you need something a little more enticing, here are some of my favorite parts:
- We are introduced to our hero, Raju, who literally fights his way through a crowd of hundreds just to get to one guy. That's no exaggeration. hundreds. You know how villains in movies crowd around the hero but attack him one at a time? That doesn't happen here.
- Not to be outdone, our other hero, Bheem, is first seen literally using himself as bait to capture a wolf, only to instead draw the attention of a rampaging tiger and have to fight and capture it personally. Not only is this totally awesome, but the tiger comes later in the story, so seeing this guy manhandling a wild jungle cat actually serves the storyline.
- Raju and Bheem meet in what is probably the craziest situation ever. After a train crash, a boy is trapped in a river engulfed in fire. Seeing each other from a distance, the two strangers use wordless hand signals and sheer machismo to hatch a plan which consists of hopping onto a motorcycle and horse nearby, tying a rope around them and taking their respective vehicles/animals away to ride the side of a high bridge to form a rather complex system of counterweights in order to save the child. As they fall into the river, they share an epic, extended underwater high-five while a song about friendship plays. Then, in celebration, hundreds of spectators form a giant human pyramid, which the two men scale victoriously.
- Bheem's subtle, tactful plan to save the young girl involves driving a truckload of wild animals - tigers, leopards, wolves, bears and a few wildly confused deer - to a fancy party at the governor's mansion as a distraction. I can't even describe to you how amazing this whole sequence is. It's just an orgy of bloody human/animal mayhem, fiery explosions and slow-motion testosterone. At one point Raju punches a tiger in the face with a fiery fist and somehow that's not the coolest part of the scene.
- Also of note is a prison escape scene, in which Bheem runs around with an injured Raju on his shoulders while the two-man hybrid monstrosity battles an army of guards in a sequence I can only describe as "Meets John Wick." Vincent adult by Bojack Horseman.”
- And then there's the final siege, with both men attaining near-superhuman status, with Raju achieving full Hawkeye mode with a bow and arrow firing live grenades, and Bheem simply nonchalantly bringing an oncoming motorbike to a standstill and taking it picks up use as a weapon. Really has to be seen to be believed.
The whole action has a turn-off-your-brain mentality, but the rest RRR definitely not. Shockingly, the dramatic, character-building moments in this film really work. Scenes like Bheem's brave heart-style torture and Raju's tragic backstory with his father is actually quite powerful, something I wasn't expecting in a movie like this. There are technically female romantic leads for each of the main characters, but the real and complicated friendship the two men share is the true relationship at the heart of the film. Or as their title track repeatedly says, it's a "friendship between an erupting volcano and a wild storm!"
I also enjoyed how unabashedly tough it was against the Brits. The evil governor and his equally villainous wife, played by Punisher: Warzone's Ray Stevenson and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade's Allison Doody make convincingly over-the-top villains with no shades of gray or subtlety. (SPOILER: When they finally kill the governor, his fresh heart's blood splatters over a sign of the crown that reads, "The sun never sets on the English empire colonial oppressors.
Like most Bollywood (or in this case Tollywood) films, RRR is long - just over three hours - but trust me when I say it flies by. There's not a minute wasted even on some of the song and dance numbers, which is more than I can say for most Hollywood blockbusters these days. It's currently available on Netflix in the US, but if you ever get a chance to catch it on the big screen, I highly recommend giving your eyeballs and your heart a treat to remember.
PLAY AT HOME!
Take a shot each time or drink:
- A new title card will appear
- A human fights an animal or uses an animal to fight
- Someone is talking about the value of a bullet
- Bheem mounts a motorcycle and/or Raju mounts a horse
- Someone takes out a group of baddies with human bowling
- Something cool is happening in slow motion
- Someone is surrounded by flames
- Someone has to blow up their father
double shot if:
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