Movie Review: ROCKY HANDSOME (2016)
John Abraham’s most recent film is a remake of a Korean thriller that he co-produced himself. While it’s difficult to separate the remake from the original, I’m at least going to attempt to judge the new film based on its own merits. If any.
Get the ‘Rocky Handsome’ Original Motion Picture Soundtrack on iTunes
‘Rocky Handsome’ is about a mysteriously quiet man, and his unusual friendship with a young girl, whose chatterbox qualities complement his strong/silent archetype. It’s kinda sweet, but at times almost trying too hard to be so. The young girl herself, Naomi (Diya Chalwad) has a horrible junkie for a mother, so she seeks the father figure role absent in her life, from the man everyone has apparently nicknamed Handsome.
Handsome (hard to type that with a straight face) runs a pawn shop, and is one day approached by some gangsters who need something that was pawned to him by Naomi’s mom Anna, (Nathalia Kaur) a bar dancer who stole drugs from some bad people. The gangsters have kidnapped Anna and Naomi, and, after finding out that Handsome gives a crap about them, decide to use him as a patsy in their own internal drug turf war.
‘Rocky Handsome’ is a movie made pretty well. Some use of early non linear storytelling help to create a hook, and then establish the hoard of supporting characters and sub plots pretty nicely. Director Nishikant Kamat (‘Force’, ‘Drishyam’) consistently goes from point A to B in a more or less straight forward manner that makes sense while being dramatically effective. Where things fall apart, at least for me, is in the performances and certain choices in direction.
Firstly, let’s talk about the girl. Naomi is supposed to be cute which, to be fair, she is. But her character is shown to be obnoxiously cute in her continued efforts to befriend the stoic Handsome. I can’t do this. His real name in the movie is Kabir, that’s what I’m using from here on in. The problem is, that Chalwad isn’t able to handle the demands of the character. The young actress’ delivery of lines are deliberate and careful, less like a fast talking-ly curious child, and more like a kid who is methodically reciting lines she memorized. I don’t mean to harp on a child actress, who otherwise is great in the film, but her performance comes off as very forced and strained, and considering she’s supposed to be the emotional hook of the story, it a massive failing for the film.
Which brings us to Abraham. While it’s very smart for him to playing a character who talks less and simply has to maintain an indifferent expression, while flexing his muscles to vein popping lengths, he overcompensates for that in flashback sequences where he hysterically over-emotes. It’s a hit and miss performance as Abraham handles the actions sequences brilliantly, while the more emotional scenes are slightly cringeworthy.
‘Rocky Handsome’ has supporting characters who, contrastingly to Abraham’s quiet characterization are loud as hell, which disturbs the flow of the story. Almost all the villains are garish cartoons, so any intimidation or threat that they pose are undermined by their own depictions. This makes any tension created in the story to be completely pointless, as the characters’ ridiculous mannerisms take away from all of it.
The story itself is a complete shot for shot, and at times, line by line remake of the original Korean thriller ‘The Man From Nowhere’. In that sense, Director Nishikant Kamat can be somewhat applauded for not changing too much of the movie, and keeping it pretty faithful to the original. The biggest change would be the way all the characters are portrayed.
The differences come when the movie is Bollywood-ized, with unnecessary flashbacks to give back story of Kabir and his crazy action-orientated origin. While the movie boasts of very minor action set pieces, which are impressive, a heavy fight and gun shot laden expository flashback, juxtaposed with Abraham pretending to do shirtless Tai Chi in the dark (why?!) is as gratuitious as things can get.
It’s difficult to qualitatively describe ‘Rocky Handsome’; the best things about the movie are from the original film, and the changes made by Bollywood, are either unnecessary or moot. The performances are all over the place, and even Abraham himself seems like he phoned in some sequences (like all the flashback scenes with Shruti Haasan whose inclusion can only be described as a failed wager.)
Kamant’s other action fluff film ‘Force’ had a lot more substance and tighter story than ‘Rocky Handsome’, which fails to create any emotional investment by the audience due to poor performances. The only reason this movie could be worth a watch for action fans, is for the very well choreographed actions sequences, like the massively crazy knife fight sequence in the climax, which is an improvement upon the original.
Which did you like better… the original or Bollywood’s ‘Rocky Handsome’?
Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @theshahshahid