RRR ★★★★½

A kaleidoscopically colorful and bombastically over-the-top quasi-historical Indian actioner/musical/bromance to the nth degree, RRR is simply a film like no other, teeming in unmatched exuberance and earnestness and just stuffed to the gills with one stunningly imaginative action set piece after the next over the course of an epic three hours that must be seen to be believed.

Indian cinema is quite a blind spot for me. A recent attempt to remedy this gap with the Collab didn't go so well when I watched and hated Dhoom, so when I recently came across an insane review from LB friend Mitch Capps for RRR, and was just floored by his hilarious description, I vowed to give it another go and boy am I glad I did!

For starters, this film kicks off with perhaps the greatest action set piece I've ever seen in any movie. Yeah, that's a pretty bold statement, but I'm going to stand behind it. I've seen a lot of action movies, granted mostly American ones, but I've never in my life seen anything quite as insane as the character introduction in this film for my boy Rama Raju (Ram Charan), who is a military officer working for the "man" (the Brits) who are in the heyday of their imperialistic rule over India.

Ram is assigned to small outpost of British soldiers who are about to be overrun by a crowd of thousands of local Indians who have had enough of the Crown's bullshit. One dude in the crowd throws something at the British officer in charge and tells his officers to arrest that man. Problem is, he's a needle in a haystack of like two thousand people behind a barbed wire-topped fence. Ram really wants an "atta-boy" from the head British officer and proceeds to fling himself into the crowd to arrest that one guy. What happens next is impossible to describe. He literally fights solo, one man against a thousand, in order to complete the mission. And complete his mission he does.

Not long after this do we meet Ram's counterpart, this wild man from the forest named Bheem who is no slouch himself, going toe-to-toe with a jungle tiger when we first meet him. He's more of the bruiser than Rama is, and he's on a mission to rescue his 12 year-old sister from the Brits after she is "purchased" from her family for a few coins. Rama is assigned to track down Bheem but goes undercover and the two men become friends.

Like really, really good friends. Like insanely good friends. Let's just say these dudes are super into each other. I mean Bheem sort of loses focus on rescuing his sister while he falls head over heels for Rama, but given we've got three hours to work with here, there's time for them to sing songs, dance, carry each other on their shoulders, dance underwater, and ride motorcycles together before Bheem gets back to murdering as many British soldiers as possible on his way to finding his sister. I suppose this kind of blatant homoeroticism is played straight in India? I have no idea, but I'm sure to American audiences their bromance will appear to be something out of an absurdist comedy. Me, I loved every minute of it, but be prepared, no punches are pulled in demonstrating the intensity of these guys' friendship.

It's weird, from a tonal standpoint the film is super goofy in parts, super sentimental, and also ultra patriotic. I have basically no clue about internal Indian politics but these two men are actually historical figures who are quite revered and even deified. It's gleeful, joyful, silly, almost like a family film in parts, but then the violence is unbelievably visceral and graphic. I mean, many, many dudes get shot in the head, there is tons of blood, torture, dismemberments, beating up of women, killing of women, swordplay, gunplay, death by bow and arrow, death by spear, death by tiger, death by elephant, explosions, cannons, you name it.

What I'm getting at is that at times it seems like a sappy goofy patriotic cheesefest, but then in other parts it's as bloody and as brutal as any action film you've ever seen. In fact it's more like a superhero movie than just a simple action movie. These dudes are like a two-man Avengers team, except the only difference is there is like 100 times more blood and guts than any MCU flick.

By no means is this a film that portrays anything remotely approaching a semblance of what you might call realism. If that is your thing you will probably hate this. In order to like this, you also have to have a high tolerance for cheese. Plus, and I'm not joking here, you have to be able to stomach the patriarchal male-centric vibe that is sadly endemic to Indian culture. The women here are MacGuffins or window dressing, full stop. That particular aspect was one of the reasons I couldn't stand Dhoom, and it's definitely not as bad here but still noticeable. That said, if you can put all of those aspects aside and just open your mind to an utterly bonkers sensibility, you might have a whole lot of fun with this like I did.

And RRR is quite beautiful to behold as well. Yes there is a lot of noticeable CGI, but at the same time the film embraces a sense of hyperreality from the get go so the CGI simply serves the story and its jaw-dropping aesthetics rather than detracting from it. Writer-director S. S. Rajamouli is a madman, no doubt, but it's abundantly clear that he's a skilled craftsman who embodies absolute commitment to his vision and infuses his work with a gleeful sense of adventure, all while broadening the boundaries of what a crowd-pleasing action film can be.

Towards the end of the film the story leans hard into the mytho-poetic as Rama literally becomes an avatar of Ram from Valmiki's Ramayana and finally I got to see a glimpse of what that incredibly influential epic might look like if adapted to film with today's visual effects technology. Here's to S. S. Rajamouli deciding for his next project to do a straight-up adaptation of one of the great Indian epics!

Bottom line, I really, really liked this crazy film.


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