We’ve been on a bit of a break, but had no choice to return after watching…
Director: S. S. Rajamouli
Stars: N. T. Rama Rao Jr., Ram Charan, Ray Stevenson
IS THERE A PLOT?
In 1920s India, a young girl is kidnapped by an evil British governor, causing her village to send their unstoppable “protector” to get her back at any cost. The ensuing trail of vengeance and destruction catches the attention of an equally relentless police officer and leads to a showdown that may change the fate of the country forever.
WHAT’S THE DAMAGE?
The greatest superhero movie this year won’t be released by Marvel or DC. No, even with several films from those studios still to come in 2022, I’m supremely confident not one of them will come close to touching the glory that is RRR. India’s breakout international hit—the most expensive movie ever made in the country—brought in audiences from all over the world and set records at the box office with its huge spectacle and mass appeal.
I was weary of the hype, but it’s honestly the most crowd-pleasing, four-quadrant movie I’ve seen in a long time, featuring literally everything you could possibly want in a film: stellar action sequences, real character drama, romance AND bromance, and even multiple musical numbers/dance-offs. And RRR delivers it all with such gusto, not afraid to go big and silly, or serious and sincere when needed. It’s a movie where you’ll cheer watching someone throw a snarling leopard at a bad guy in the middle of a fight, and then immediately get misty-eyed as the same man sings an inspirational song about human perseverance.
It’s not a bad movie in the typical tradition of this column, but the sheer excess and over-the-top ridiculousness is all the excuse I need to recommend it for Awfully Good fans.
Bonus! You might actually learn something about the history of India…sort of. The story of RRR is based on real revolutionaries Komaram Bheem and Alluri Sitarama Raju, both of whom led rebellions against British colonizers in the 1920s and 1930s. The characters here are fictitious versions of the actual men, who never met in real life and thus sadly never actually waged a two-man war on invading oppressors using jungle cats. Writer/Director S. S. Rajamouli instead posits the film as a three-hour “what if” that imagines these folk heroes on their own paths of resistance, before coming together to rescue a kidnapped girl and jumpstarting an uprising in the process.
In doing so, it treats the two historical figures like real-life superheroes with inexplicable strength and abilities. (One of the characters even receives 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, gun fights, big stunt pieces, and exciting chases—both motorcycle and horse—all on a massive scale. It’s not a movie to invite realism or nitpicking, sort of in the vein of the later FAST AND FURIOUS movies…but with an actual story and characters.
It’s also all gorgeously shot and competently edited, so much so that I would kill to see what Rajamouli could do with a big Hollywood blockbuster. Even being the most expensive Bollywood movie, RRR only cost $72 million. Can you imagine what this director could do with $200 million?
I know this is bad form for a writer on the Internet, but if you have any interest in this movie at all, I implore you to stop reading this article immediately and just experience RRR for yourself. It features some of the craziest stuff you’ll see on celluloid all year and it’s best discovered cold. However, if you need a little more enticing, here are some of my favorite parts:
- We’re introduced to our hero Raju as he literally fights through a crowd of hundreds just to get to one guy. That is not hyperbole. Hundreds. You know how in movies bad guys 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 using himself as literal bait to catch a wolf, only to instead attract the attention of a rampaging tiger and have to personally fight and trap it. Not only is this totally awesome, but the tiger comes to play in the story later, so seeing this guy manhandle a ferocious jungle cat is actually in service of the plot.
- Raju and Bheem meet in possibly the most insane situation to ever unfold. Following a train accident, a boy is trapped in a river surrounded by fire. The two strangers see each other from a distance and wordlessly use hand signals and pure machismo to concoct a plan that involves getting on a motorcycle and a nearby horse, tying a rope around themselves, and riding their respective vehicles/animals off the side of a tall bridge to form a rather complex system of counterweights to save the child. When they fall in to the river, they share an epic, extended underwater high five as a song about friendship plays. Then, in celebration, hundreds of onlookers form a giant human pyramid, which the two men ascend in victory.
- Bheem’s subtle, tactful plan to rescue the young girl involves him driving a truck full of wild animals—tigers, leopards, wolves, bears, and some wildly confused deer—in to an elegant party at the governor’s mansion as a distraction. I can’t even describe to you how amazing this entire sequence is. It’s just an orgy of bloody human/animal chaos, fiery explosions, and slow-motion testosterone. At one point Raju punches a tiger in the face with a fiery fist and somehow this is not the coolest part of the scene.
- Also notable is a prison escape scene where Bheem runs around with an injured Raju sitting on his shoulders as the two-man hybrid monstrosity fights off an army of guards in a sequence I can only describe as “John Wick meets Vincent Adultman from Bojack Horseman.”
- And then there’s the final siege, where both men have leveled up to near-superhuman status with Raju achieving full Hawkeye mode with a bow and arrow that shoots live grenades and Bheem just casually kicking an incoming motorcycle to a complete stop and picking it up to use as a weapon. Truly has to be seen to be believed.
All the action has a turn-off-your-brain mentality to it, but the rest of RRR definitely does not. Shockingly, the dramatic, character-building moments in this really work. Scenes like Bheem’s BRAVEHEART-style torture and Raju’s tragic backstory with his dad are actually quite powerful, something I was not expecting in a movie like this. There are technically female romantic leads for each of the main characters, but the genuine and complicated friendship the two men share is the real relationship at the heart of the movie. Or as their theme song repeatedly says, it’s a “Friendship between an erupting volcano and a wild storm!”
I also enjoyed how unflinchingly hard it goes against the British. The evil governor and his equally villainous wife, played by PUNISHER: WAR ZONE’s Ray Stevenson and INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE’s Allison Doody, make convincingly over-the-top bad guys with zero shades of grey or subtlety. (SPOILER: When they eventually kill the governor, his fresh heartblood splatters across a sign of the crown that reads, “The sun never sets on the English Empire.”) There’s just something heartwarming about India’s biggest international hit being a scathing takedown of its colonial oppressors.
Like most Bollywood movies, RRR is long—just over three hours—but trust me when I say it flies by. There’s not a wasted minute, even with some of the song and dance numbers, which is more than I can say with most Hollywood blockbusters these days. It’s currently on Netflix in the U.S., but If you ever have a chance to see it on the big screen, I highly recommend treating your eyeballs and your heart to a memorable time.
PLAY ALONG AT HOME!
Take a shot or drink every time:
- A new title card is shown
- A human fights an animal or uses an animal to fight
- Someone talks about the value of a bullet
- Bheem gets on a motorcycle and/or Raju gets on a horse
- Someone takes out a group of bad guys using human bowling
- Something cool happens in slow motion
- Someone is surrounded by flames
- Someone has to blow up their dad
Double shot if:
Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email and give him an excuse to drink.