Action Movie Review: This Action gets an equal and opposite reaction
The film isn’t a total washout. On occasion, the film has you rising from indifference to mild curiosity
There is some pressure on critics to respond in an agreeable way when films like Action come out. We are expected to, you know, talk about how the film has tried to give us action blocks of, what’s that phrase, ‘Hollywood standard’; be impressed by the makers’ ambition of having an Indian hero kick a** in exotic locales a la James Bond/Ethan Hunt; look awed by the rapid editing that sometimes confuses you about who beat up who and how. I can’t, with a conscience, say any of this because the truth is, I enjoyed very little about Action. And yes, this isn’t to refute that this film is an attempt to make our version of their action film. It’s quite evident from the hero thulping people in countries like Turkey, UK, and why, even Pakistan. It’s a film whose hero, Subhash (Vishal), is introduced jumping from a great height with a clenched fist. You are supposed to take it seriously, but I found it hard to fight the urge to laugh.
Director: Sundar C
Cast: Vishal, Tamannaah, Aishwarya Lekshmi, Ramki, Yogi Babu, Shah R
As it’s our version of their film, this action film also contains wholly predictable attempts at humour—of the usual hero-beating-up-comedian (Shah Ra) variety. His teeth get punched out, so he can say, “Mallu kattalaam nu paatha, pallu katta vechutiye.” Oh, and any time there’s an action hero, of course, there has to be a heroine who gets smitten by him at first sight. In Action though, I guess we must be grateful that this doesn’t happen over him trying to save her. It does when he’s trying to save another girl, his sister, from marrying his ‘useless’ friend. Fascinatingly, the male stalker idea gets reversed here, as though it were the solution. Here, the girl proudly proclaims that she kissed Subhash when he was sleeping. She reveals this as she’s about to repeat this gesture. There’s another strange love scene. Once Subhash establishes he’s interested in her too, she brings him a cup of coffee. He responds with bizarre irritation and orders her to bring him tea instead. When the docile creature does as she is bid, he orders her to get closer, so he can get to the straw. I hope I didn’t miss a double entendre there somewhere. But none of this is unusual romance writing from this director; what’s unusual though is how the humour, which Sundar C is pretty good at usually, is so flat—unless Subhash yelling at his friend for kissing him (“Aambalaikku aambalai muththam kudupiyaa?”) counts. Somewhere, you get the comedian-having-the-hots-for-a-foreign-girl idea (like in almost every Tamil film ever set in the West), and the joke here is that till he meets her, he doesn’t realise she’s an old woman. Don’t worry; I am not ruining the joke for you; I am saving you.
Action isn’t a total washout though. On occasion, the film has you rising from indifference to mild curiosity. It’s somewhat interesting that despite the presence of Tamannaah in the film, Subhash is romantically involved with another heroine, Aishwarya Lekshmi. It’s somewhat interesting that some seemingly key characters get offed pretty early. It’s somewhat interesting that Yogi Babu plays a hacker. It’s somewhat interesting that Hip Hop Thamizha seems totally excited about what’s going on. In one of his excitable songs, Fiyah Fiyah, a femme fatale is performing a seductive dance after committing a few murders, and it’s all par for the course, when something catches your eye: The strange blurring near her neck area by our censor officials. The blurring is on and off, and it gets you wondering how vulgarity gets determined. If anything, the blurring draws your attention further and adds to the objectification.
Meanwhile, unperturbed, Subhash is flitting between countries, despatching anonymous henchmen. A particularly interesting action setpiece occurs on the outside of a condominium, as Subhash and his adversaries leap from outside AC units, trying to off each other. Just as it begins to seem interesting, one of them easily kicks down the AC unit; Subhash meanwhile keeps falling down only to cling on to something with surprising ease. Even when he crashes down from a great height, he isn’t debilitated by the fall. But you have to say, when we are able to choreograph and shoot our stunt sequences better, Vishal, with his athletic build, would be among our better fits for such sequences.
Action is the sort of film I dare say will have supporters, especially of the glass-half-full kind. They would likely argue that the sort of action we get here is better than what we generally do. They would argue this film shows a lot of ambition. Essentially, they would argue it could have been worse. But really, shouldn’t we be demanding better?