Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 07/24/16 16:36:06

"Not so rebellious, but has good action."
3 stars (Average)

SCREENED AT THE 2016 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: With any luck, "Baaghi" will eventually look like the movies Jackie Chan did when he was at the same point in his career as present-day Tiger Shroff: Not very good overall, made from fill-in-the-blanks scripts, filled with people who can't really act, and perhaps best forgotten if not for the fact that, from the very start, this guy could fight when the camera was on. You could cut one heck of an action-oriented trailer for this one, even if there is a fair amount of other filler.

It introduces us to the villain first. Raghav (Sudheer Babu) apparently makes enough money operating underground fight clubs out of Bangkok - around the world that when he kidnaps Sia Khurana (Shraddha Kapoor) after his minions found the object of his obsession - not hard, as she's taken over as the star of a movie her father (Sunil Grover) is shooting - no police force or diplomat is willing to take him on. And so, her father hires Sia's ex-boyfriend Ronny (Shroff), who trained as a martial artist under Raghav's father (Shifuji Shaurya Bharadwaj), though Raghav was the stronger student.

It's a pretty darn simple story, so it's a bit frustrating that writer Sanjeev Dutta and director Sabbir Khan feel the need to stretch it out to 133 minutes, including a plot about getting the mute son of a friend an operation that will allow him to speak that is basically forgotten by the end, and a lot of back-and-forth to explain why they can spend a whole bunch of the first half having Ronny and Sia meet excessively cute and still have him giggly act like he's only rescuing her for the money. It's a messy amount of flashbacks piled on as well; building it like that means that by the time the movie gets to the intermission (or where it would be, since North American venues usually play these straight through), it seems like a lot less has happened than actually has. Instead of feeling like we've seen the full arc of the characters' story, it feels like it took an hour to go from Ronny being hired to go to Bangkok and Ronny going to Bangkok.

That's in large part because this isn't really a great cast. Tiger Shroff is fairly charismatic and will certainly cause some swooning when his shirt comes off (and you'd better believe that it does), but considering "baaghi" is Hindi for "rebel", he's far more likable goof toward the start and vaguely determined later. Give him time, and he may develop into something. Sudheer Babu is generally fairly decent as the villain, with chops enough to be casual in his cruelty without looking the clown. Shraddha Kapoor, though, is given some drippy material for Sia - quite literally, grinning like a lunatic whenever it starts raining - and can't particularly elevate it. She's ahead of Sunil Grover, at least, who really gets the bad end of the script and has basically one dimwitted expression and tone to go with everything.

But... These guys can fight a little. More than a little, actually; although action scenes are relatively sparse for a while, the big set-piece in the second half shamelessly takes its cues from The Raid, and there are worse things to lift from, what with the back-to-back-to-back fights with different opponents, stairwells to throw people down, et cetera. Shroff proves to be impressive as an athlete and Khan does pretty well in holding a shot long enough and keeping enough in frame that it certainly feels like the audience isn't being tricked, even when a scene goes on for a while. On top of that, the filmmakers have a few entertainingly oddball instincts, with musical numbers that are almost self-deprecating, an early fight scene that goes in a funny direction, and a cat chase that decides the running joke of a blind cabbie could use a little more.

It's not a great martial-arts movie, much less a well-rounded bit of cinema in general. Still, it's Shroff's second movie, and if he keeps doing this sort of thing, he'll probably get pretty good at it, since he's already not bad at certain parts of the job at all.

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