Movie Review: BROTHERS (2015) – Unnecessarily Bollywood
Bollywood movies have a way of being over the top and melodramatic, which goes without saying, even though I just did. It’s something that’s become expected of the industry. However, it’s surprising when they are able to take a story from another industry, and purposefully strip away everything from it that made it unique. ‘Brothers‘ is an official remake of the Lionsgate production ‘Warrior‘, (my Review here) albeit an extremely dragged out version of it. While this is a remake, my review will attempt to focus on ‘Brothers’ as it’s own standalone film, without drawing comparisons to the Hollywood version.
A story of two brothers who enter the same fighting competition and end up facing each other is what ‘Brothers’ is supposed to be about. The story however, features other subplots and back story that is supposed to enhance the characters and their motivations, but does nothing except set up an elaborately dramatic movie with plot points that go nowhere. A major focus of the story is the father of these two brothers, and his involvement in their lives. The ‘conflict’ tearing this family apart, is kind of already spoiled in the trailer for the movie; a mistake by the dad Gary (Jackie Shroff) gets him imprisoned, leaving the two young boys to fend for themselves. The hatred between brothers stems from the eldest brother David (Akshay Kumar) abandoning the youngest Monty (Siddhartha Malhotra) and all the hardships each faced in their youth because of it. The writers never actually feel that the audience deserves to know exactly what these hardships were though.
Years later, upon the father’s release from prison, he trains the youngest son to enter into a fighting competition where the winner walks away with a hefty cash price. David, through circumstances enter the same contest, returning to his former life of competitive street fighting in order to be able to financially support his wife and ailing daughter, whose medical expenses threaten to drown them financially. Monty’s reasons for entering the competition are less understandable, beyond a simple hate for his older brother. Monty’s story is never fleshed out in the movie, as his back story is grossly underdeveloped.
As expected in a Bollywood movie when a veteran actor signs a film with a newcomer, Akshay Kumar’s David really gets the bulk of the story moment. His backstory is shown through a song montage in the first act of the film, and then with multiple flashbacks through out the movie. However, we get none of that for Monty, except a throwaway line by the sports commentators about him growing up in an orphanage. There’s a scene where Monty even asks David if he knows what he’s been through in his childhood. Something even I was asking throughout the film.
‘Brother’s biggest problem really, is that it’s a Bollywood movie. Elements of the film are highly stylized when they don’t need to be, or overdramatized when it’s not necessary for the forward momentum of the plot. A scene for example which deals with David, reluctantly returning to his former life of fighting for money, is done in such a slow-mo button opening sequence that it you can’t help but roll your eyes; something that happens quite often during this movie. There are also a few logic holes in the characters and their reactions to certain plot points. After cheering for the success of both his sons being in the final round of the competition, Gary breaks down and dramatically exits the stadium, upon the sudden realization that both his sons have to now fight each other. Even though, in a competition of 10 fighters, there was a 1 in 8 chance of that happening from the get-go. There’s also a sudden revelation that two fighters in the competition with the exact same last name, background, nationality and hair cuts, are related. *gasp-shock-awe*
The movie also spends much of its time focused on this competitive fighting plot device that allows the two brothers to fight. There are multiple scenes with the organizer of the fight, Briganza, (Kiran Kumar) proclaiming why organized Mixed Martial Arts is good for India. While it’s great seeing Kumar back on screen after so long, putting in a very nostalgic performance, the movie spends entirely too much time on this. There are references to topics of the misfortune of underpaid national athletes and other social topics, but the story does’t really talk about them beyond sounds bytes used by journalists in the background.
‘Brothers‘ just progressively gets worse as you dig deeper: as the fight choreography in this movie is terrible. Director Karan Malhotra has no idea how to frame or set up the in ring action. Framed as mid shots, a blurry of fists and body parts are all that can be discernible for most of the actual fights. A few sequences featuring Akshay Kumar are done better, but that was more to showcase Kumar’s own martial arts ability, than any service to the technical aspects of the movie. The edits from shot to shot of one fight scene are even worse, as a fighter on the ground is visibly on his feet in the next cut, which isn’t meant to be a montage. The movie’s music cues are also glaringly out of place. There’s a sequence where a sports commentators mentions how Monty walks out without any ‘walk-out music, as a statement to his devil-may-care attitude; a claim that is lost on the audience, given that the movie’s own backgrond score is blaring during all of it.
Despite the disjointed story and the faulty direction of it, ‘Brothers‘ does have some pretty decent performances. Jackie Shroff as the confusingly troubled or traumatized or delusional (it’s not clear which) father is amazing. His performance is completely out of context of the story, and it’s clear he’s just following direction, but it’s brilliant nonetheless. Jacqueline Fernandez is also impressive, in a role that is contradictory to the actresses career thus far. Not at all objectified for her looks, Fernandez stands her own and is effective in her portrayal. Akshay Kumar’s role is also more toned down and restraint than his usual ‘hero’ roles, which on its own may be a step in the right direction. Malhotra gets to do nothing but fume and attempt to fit into a role that has been built on more what is said about the character, than anything the character does in the story.
‘Brothers’ has many pit falls, most of them that can easily be resolved if the film didn’t try to imitate what it thinks a fights / sports movie supposed to be about. The emotional back stories of the characters are overshadowed by the stylized and flawed misunderstanding of a sports movie. The film also makes it clear that the director nor writers have any grasp of what an underdog story is. Both David & Monty lack any sort of presence in comparison to the other fighters. We’re supposed to accept both brothers’ progress into the competition, despite their lack of any skill, simply because they’re the heroes of the story, not due to any development in their character or fighting ability.
‘Brothers’ may be commercially successful for a Bollywood movie, given that the genre is unlike what has been done before. But over all, the movie lacks any heart or substance to be a sports movie, and any character development to be a character driven story; a failure in both regards.