RRR (2022) – Alternate Ending: Alternate Ending

Some table-setting is necessary before diving deep into RRR. First, while the term “Bollywood” has been freely applied to the film and I will indeed be using the term frequently throughout this review, it is important to note that this film is technically “Tollywood,” a term for cinema in the Telugu language spoken in the Indian states Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. However, Tollywood can also refer to Bengali cinema from the Tollygunge region, so any way you slice it the English terms are either slightly confusing or slightly inaccurate. Also, the version of the film that just dropped on Netflix is ​​dubbed in Hindi, and currently the only way to access the film in its original language is the Indian cinema streaming service Zee5.

Second, as an action movie of any stripe, there are going to be political elements that are questionable. While the film’s anti-imperialist themes are pretty widely palatable in this day and age, there are elements of the film’s depiction of tribal India that have drawn ire from people who know infinitely more about the matter than I do. Ditto the specific Indian political figures the film emulates or specifically names vs the ones it does not. And personally, any form of fervent patriotism makes me itchy. I will not step into the fray of assessing the film’s political leanings, because absolutely nobody needs to hear from me on this subject.

OK, you’ve had your vegetables. It’s time for dessert now. RRR is fucking awesome. It’s a three-hour epic following two fictionalized Indian revolutionaries during the 1920s, when Britain occupied the country. One is Komaram Bheem (NT Rama Rao Jr.), a member of a tribe who has arrived in Delhi to rescue a young girl who was kidnapped and enslaved by the area’s British governor Scott Buxton (Ray Stevenson). The other is Alluri Sitarama Raju (Ram Charan), a hard-nosed member of the Indian faction of the police force, serving the British crown. He seeks to earn the title of special officer at all costs, and he has been promised that, if he can capture Bheem, he will be promoted. The catch? Nobody knows what this avenging angel looks like, and Bheem is operating undercover as a Muslim named Akhtar.

The two meet during an action-packed sequence where they save a young fisherman from being crushed and / or burned by an oil tanker train that has fallen off a bridge, and quickly become best friends. Their bond will be challenged, however, when they find out that they are secretly each other’s mortal enemies.

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I think it is a terrible crutch for any critic to attempt to sell a film on incident. A plot detail that sounds awesome on paper might end up terrible onscreen because its success is dependent on performance, cinematography, tone, and a hundred other things. My absolute least favorite type of line to read in any review is something like “how could you not enjoy a movie where Jason Voorhees goes to space?” “Or where Taraji P. Henson puts on a bunch of wigs and murders people?” Reader, I have found many ways to not enjoy these films.

That said, if you are not going to like a movie where a dude attacks another dude by throwing a cheetah at him, I do not know how to talk to you.

RRR is a thrilling feast of action movie maximalism, combining maniacal popcorn movie energy with heart-stopping execution. The frequent setpieces start at a place of feverish intensity (the fight that literally opens the movie involves a scrum of hundreds of extras, and they escalate from there in a furious kaleidoscope of slow motion, midair choreography, and billowing flame) and apply the busy but focused cinematography (by KK Senthil Kumar), the sharp editing (by A .Sreekar Prasad), and the incredible physical skill of both leads to create wonderfully crisp, legible, and electrifying sequences. They are clearly terrific dancers, as exemplified in the film’s two musical sequences, and the line between fight and dance has rarely been thinner or more viscerally pleasurable to witness.

The thing that’s especially thrilling here is the fact that both leads are the kind of oversized hero that Bollywood action cinema traffics in. Typically a film in this vein (like the excellent but extremely politically questionable Baaghi 3) will focus on a single indestructible hero working his way past a variety of Herculean obstacles, but in this case, Bheem and Raju are both painted with the same legendary brush. When they inevitably turn against one another, it’s a true clash of the titans that puts any comparable superhero blockbuster to shame.

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Unfortunately, this clash comes at about the halfway point of a three-hour movie. Although the action sequences that follow (especially the piggyback ride fight) would be the best moments in any other movie, they can not help but suffer from the fact that they’s scaled back from the controlled chaos of the film’s best sequence, a battle during a party on the grand lawn at the governor’s mansion.

The true strength of the movie lies in the fact that the figures at the center of the movie might have the strength of demigods, but they are very human figures. Their bond of friendship, and the various ways it makes their separate missions more challenging, is well-delivered both by the actors and the screenplay that gives them space to bond. By the end of this epic, every little emotion they feel onscreen will cut you to the quick because they have so thoughtfully and intentionally set up the stakes for everyone involved.

I would not want anyone to mistake the character work as being subtle, however. Everything in RRR is the farthest thing from subtle, and that is another one of its strengths. It depicts heroism and friendship in the grandest, most earnestly prideful manner possible, and director SS Rajamouli applies his maximalist eye toward getting this message across in the friendship sequences (especially when he visually implies the impending schism that dooms them) as much as he does in the action scenes. When he eventually asks the question “Why have a character angrily punch a hole in a wall once, when he can do it 18 times?” you’ll be hard-pressed to find an answer.

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One of the only genuine, pernicious flaws in the film is that the English-language performers playing the various British officers throughout the film are giving almost uniformly poor performances. I think it would be safe to assume that the director’s grasp on English-language performance is minimal so, like many Godzilla films before it that felt the need to include white English-speaking actors, the English actors in RRR are left to drift in the wind with wooden, awkward line readings that are highly distracted. The two most important English characters (Scott and his lovely niece Jenny, played by Olivia Morris) are largely performed well but the rest of the ensemble around them is harrowing to behold. This somewhat undermines the film’s deeply-felt message about the violence and humiliation of imperialism, but considering how well that message is baked into the film’s imagery, not as much as it might have otherwise.

Another negative, though I’d hesitate to call it a flaw, is the CGI. While the effects used to bring action scenes to life are generally as realistic as they need to be, there are many digitally rendered animals scurrying around this movie that only intermittently look realistic enough to not be aware of their computerized origins. This fact is not distracting, per se, because the film lives in such a heightened atmosphere that any remotely active viewer understands that nothing onscreen is truly meant to be taken literally. However, there are some major flaws in the motion rendering of the tiger especially that send you tumbling down the rocky cliff into the uncanny valley.

All that said, RRR is a must-watch for anyone even remotely interested in global populist cinema. It is proof positive that there are still ideas left in the heads of action filmmakers, they’re just not making those movies in the US This movie, by nature of shooting for “over-the-top” and ending up spinning off into space , will jack right into your cerebral cortex and send electricity pulsing through your veins, hardly flagging for an instant.

Brennan Klein is a millennial who knows way more about 80’s slasher movies than he has any right to. He’s a former host of the Attack of the Queerwolf podcast and a current senior movie / TV news writer at Screen Rant. You can find his other reviews on his blog Popcorn Culture. Follow him on Twitter or Letterboxd, if you feel like it.

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