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Overall Rating

Awesome: 14.29%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap85.71%

1 review, 1 rating

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by Jay Seaver

"What the hell, India? Even your bad movies are usually fun!"
1 stars

I like to think I'm pretty generous to movies that aren't very good, trying to be encouraging of what they do well and not allowing a bad two hours of make-believe to bring about real anger. I think I've gotten to the point where I can appreciate Bollywood's unique rhythms, heightened presentation, and two-for-the-price-of-one structure, too. Taking that into account, then, I don't think I'm being mean-spirited or ignorant, and I certainly hope I'm not being any sort of snob, when I say that I spent much of "Holiday"'s 161-minute running time wondering just what the heck everyone involved was thinking.

As the movie starts, a train full of soldiers taking their annual leave from the border is broken down and late, but it eventually arrives, reuniting Captain Virat Bakshi (Akshay Kumar) with his family. Just in time, too, because there isn't much left of the auspicious hour to meet the match his family has made for him, the lovely Saiba Thapar (Sonakshi Sinha). He declines the match, at least until he sees her in a different context while he's hanging out with his policeman friend Munkun (Sumeet Raghvan), and by the time their paths cross a third time there's clearly enough of a sort of antagonistic flirting going on that HOLY SHIT SOMEONE JUST BLEW UP A BUS FULL OF SCHOOLCHILDREN!!

It's not unusual for a Bollywood movie to have some pretty severe tonal shifts to it - that's part of the unique experience of going to these productions - but that one is pretty hard to beat. Well, at least until later in the movie, when writer/director A.R. Murugadoss interrupts Virat preparing to torture someone for information with a bit of door-slamming farce and a musical number. The see-sawing between a grim ends-justify-the-means counterterrorism plot and wacky romantic comedy, complete with goofy sound effects to go with double-takes, is so dizzying that the only way it makes any sort of sense is as satire. Maybe it reads that way to someone more familiar with Indian pop culture and politics than me, but I did not catch any sense of deliberate absurdity to it. If it's satire, it's the troublesome type that is all but indistinguishable from the worst of what is being mocked.

That's the other problem: Holiday is kind of terrible as both a romantic comedy and an action thriller. There's a bit of a fun idea teased early on - that Virat and Saiba are actually a great match but the ritual involved obscures it - and a potentially snappy bit of plotting that is not only handled clumsily, but is undone in a way that rivals the torture equipment-to-dream sequence number cut for sheer casual bad taste. More importantly, perhaps, is that Virat and Saiba are rather disagreeable people who wind up deciding to pursue each other for the most superficial reasons and never actually spark. They're not quite horrible enough for the audience to hope they wind up together to spare other hypothetical suitors; instead, the "romance" just seems obligatory. Audiences expect it and the studio figures soundtrack sales from the musical numbers into a major release's budget.

At least Saiba is just kind of empty; the action side of the movie makes Virat rather worse. The politics of this movie are kind of alarming in and of themselves; apparently we're supposed to be okay with Virat hunting, torturing, and executing suspected terrorists without any sort of oversight and seeming almost contemptuous of the civilians, including his own sister, that he puts in harm's way to do it. Even overlooking the sorry of fascist/vigilante tone, though, the script is stupid - when Virat's plans work, it's often because of a combination of luck and the villains acting extraordinarily dumb, and even then, it tends to lead the sort of entirely predictable escalation that would give most protagonists some sort of moment of doubt. To add insult to injury, the resulting action isn't even all that good - there are one or two scraps with a bit of interesting staging, but no big, eye-widening climax and no moment when Virat seems particularly challenged.

It's slickly produced enough, at least; even when the action isn't imaginative, it's clear, and Murugadoss doesn't flinch from it (even adding fake CGI blood in some scenes). Those same skills probably make the three musical numbers pretty good, too (two of the three are pretty catchy). The supporting cast can't be particularly faulted - Sonakshi Sinha and Sumeet Raghvan are given characters who are placeholders at best and just badly written at worst. Akshay Kumar, on the other hand, brings the same deep-voiced intensity to every part of the movie, which actually comes off kind of creepy during the romantic segments.

Again, maybe that's meant to be deliberate, but it never really feels like Murugadoss is doing something clever or subversive. It's just an ugly action movie with an occasionally offbeat scene, which isn't nearly enough.

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originally posted: 06/11/14 12:44:13
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7/17/14 USian REVIEW On EFILMCRITIC's Jay Seaver: 0/10, BIASED, ABNORMAL, PARALYSIS. FEEDBACK: Checkup Yo 5 stars
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