Written by Manisha Lakhe on March 29, 2019
It’s what happens when you try to mix action with emotion…
Remember Ong Bak? Where the young lad and the elephants share a chemistry and save their world? Well, this one tries hard to bring the story of a boy and an elephant, ivory poachers, martial arts, relationships together and makes an unpalatable mess of it all.
There are not one, but three Ong Bak movies to steal material from, Vidyut Jamwal is a good martial arts action star, plus the film has been directed by Chuck Russell who has made films like Mask and Nightmare On Elm Street and Eraser. So how could all this go horribly wrong?
It does. Because they expect Vidyut Jamwal to emote. The closest he comes to that is mimicking a two by four. His film Force saved him from baring his lack of acting chops because it had lots and lots of action. Here, he’s introduced to the audience by fighting silly looking chaps videotaping a fake torture of a puppy! Who thought this up?
So Raj is a vet in the city, and his dad runs an elephant sanctuary in the… yes, you guessed it: Jungle. ‘Welcome to the jungle!’ is an actual dialog in the film! Dad wants son to come to the jungle for his mother’s death anniversary, and Raj reluctantly agrees because he’s supposed to hate his father for the death of his mother… Needless back story, but here we are, trying to summon emotion from an action star. It’s setting itself for failure right away.
There’s a journalist who travels with bags and a tent and everything else who suddenly seems to have a crush on Raj. There’s a girl, Shankara (played by Pooja Sawant) who he left behind who is the only female Mahout in the country (she wears an elephant head nose-pin and a lapel pin so you don’t forget that), who also has a crush on Raj. There’s a Ranger (played adequately by Akshay Oberoi who seems to get stuck with such roles), a poacher who spouts Sanskrit lines from the Mahabharata needlessly (Atul Kulkarni hams it like no one’s business), there are several gangsters of various nationalities (Singaporean, Thai, Indian and yes, a blonde gangsters moll too).
The elephants are killed for their tusks, and Raj and the Ranger fight out a very badly staged fight which the poacher ends by bringing a gun to the martial arts fight and shoots them down. It would have been a relief had the hero died, but they have a rather idiotic interference by the elephant headed god Ganesh who tells Raj that he has to live. Before you can facepalm, Raj is out there, alive and avenging the elephants and dodging bullets.
This film is so awful, the one sentence where you are told that you should not buy ivory products earns a happy nod and the appearance of the baby elephant is so sweet you ignore the fact that they have the boy who played young Raj rush at the baby elephant with other kids to pet it. You just hope you forget you watched the bad cops trying to break Raj’s bones with a hammer. You just hope they don’t make a sequel.
(this review appears on nowrunning.com)