Hrithik vs. Tiger
War could very well be the most homoerotic Bollywood film I’ve ever seen. Not only do herculean leads Hrithik Roshan, Dhoom: 2 (2006), and Tiger Shroff, Baaghi (2016), look as though they’re about to make out every time they’re sharing the screen, but there’s a scene where a recently married woman (Anupriya Goenka) tells Hrithik that she’s thinking of eloping with him, whereby a sexually frustrated Tiger retaliates by sneering, ‘Get in line!’ — sheesh, you can cut the sexual tension with a knife!
Yes, this latest Desi actioner comes to us courtesy of producer Aditya Chopra under his banner of Yash Raj Films, with filmmaker Siddharth Anand, Bang Bang! (2014), (who wrote the screenplay with Shridhar Raghavan) delivering the Mission: Impossible/ James Bond mash-up we never knew we needed. Although the script features more twists and turns than a Shyamalan rollercoaster and some truly bazar tonal shifts — one moment we’re seeing someone get shot in the head at point-blank range, the next looks as though we’ve switched to a Hallmark-y Christmas special, with Hrithik trying to convince a kid he’s looking after that Santa is real — the film truly shines when it comes to its off-the-wall action, each sequence unique and interesting enough to stand out on its own. There’s a large-scale mid-movie airplane battle that’s all sorts of crazy, while the vehicular anarchy (a motorcycle chase in Portugal, and a sports-car pursuit across a frozen river) is better than most of the drivel that’s come out of Hollywood as of late — yep, I’m looking at you Gemini Man (2019).
Our story zigzags through past and present and revolves around Kabir (Hrithik Roshan) and Khalid (Tiger Shroff), a couple of barrel-chested anti-terrorist Indian spies who are trying to take out an international arms dealer/ terrorist known as Rizwan Ilyasi (Sanjeev Vasta). Problem is Kabir has gone rogue, and his protégé Khalid is assigned to find and eliminate his hero/ former mentor, hopping across the globe to discover why the man he’d always looked up to has abandoned his country — let the battle of the bulging biceps begin! Things, however, weren’t always hunky-dory for the shouldering pair as we learn that Kabir didn’t initially want Khalid to join his unit because his dad betrayed his country and his eyesight is a bit off, but these are trivial matters as we’re not here for plot — we’re here for the fighting, dancing, and burly six-pack abs.
War eventually becomes a silly ‘who’s the mole’ cat-and-mouse chase, one with an assortment of superfluous side plots — think a sappy thread revolving Khalid’s widowed mother (Soni Razdan) — as well as a couple of over-the-top dance numbers that come out of nowhere (because sometimes you need colorful song-and-dance ditties between your action scenes). The first of these is a flamboyant Holi inspired celebration song titled ‘Jai Jai Shivshankar,’ performed by Vishal Dadlani and Benny Dayal, and choreographed by duo Bosco-Caesar, while the second, and more impressive ‘Ghungroo,’ performed by Arijit Singh and Shilpa Rao, and choreographed by Bosco-Caesar and Tushar Kalia, is a groovy, beachy number partly shot on Positano on the Amalfi Coast of Italy, which sees Hrithik hook up with a sizzlin’ Vaani Kapoor, Befikre (2016), who, let’s be honest, doesn’t have much to do in what’s mostly an extended cameo. Kapoor doesn’t show up until after the ‘intermission’ and basically plays a single mom/ civilian asset, Naina, who Kabir gets involved with and winds up using as a pawn to catch Ilyasi.
Although the hetero romance between Roshan and Kapoor is pretty short-lived, it’s the bromance that stands as the film’s USP: simply stated, Hrithik and Tiger’s on-screen camaraderie is electric (you could literally hear fans cheering whenever the dream pair were on screen together), the muscular mega-stars feeding off one another’s energy and dynamism. It helps that their over-the-top confrontations have been well shot, filmmakers utilizing slow-mos, wind machines, and baby oil for dramatic effect.
Fans of either Roshan and Shroff will probably rush to see War for either a) the bulging biceps or b) the nonsensical action and opulent set pieces of which there are plenty. From an early one-take clash in Malta (okay, VFX were probably used to piece it all together but it’s still impressive) where Khalid takes out a room full of drug-dealers, to the Michael Bay-does-Bollywood finale, set on a fully-armed weapons ship in the Arctic Circle before moving to a bone-crunching one-on-one inside a crumbling church, the ‘wow’ factor is strong with this one. True, not everything is top-shelf (visual effects and green screen are sometimes quite noticeable), but you gotta commend moviemakers for their gonzo ideas and some of the left-field stuff they’ve cobbled together here (leave your logic at home folks, you won’t need it).
But look, at the end of the day, those who go to see War probably already know what they’ve paid for: 154 minutes of pure unadulterated musclebound mayhem. While far from high art, this testosterone-fueled spectacle is weird, wild, and wonderful enough to warrant a watch.
3.5 / 5 – Great
Reviewed by Mr. Movie