Action Jackson: A Manga Crossed With Tarentino and Mixed to a Southern Beat

This was just a fun, silly movie!  Which was perfect, because I had a friend over and she said “I’ve had a bad day, let’s watch a fun silly movie.”  My first vote was Dil Aashna Hai, but she wanted something a little more current, so we ended up with Action Jackson.  Which I somehow missed in theaters and hadn’t gotten around to seeing since.

My friend loved it, by the way.  Not at first, but by the end.  At first, it just seemed too silly and surface and unbelievable.  I mean, Sonakshi thinks her luck will change if she sees Ajay’s penis!  That’s just ridiculous! (not a spoiler, by the way, it was part of the promotions)

But then the film went on, and it just got more and more ridiculous, until it reached the tipping point of “oh, okay, they KNOW they are being ridiculous!”  That’s what makes all the difference.  It’s not that Prabhudeva thinks the world is really filled with crazed women and macho men, it’s that he thinks it makes a better movie to pretend this is true.

Plus, the style stuff is just So. Awesome.  I didn’t realize that I had reached the tipping point, where the southern fight scenes no longer impress me, until my friend started being jaw-on-the-floor impressed.  Massive gravity defying stunts, dozens of stuntmen, camera work that twists and turns and yet still stays focused on the action, inventive “kills”, and a nice gloss of sexiness over the whole thing, that all seems normal to me now!  Because, every director does that.  It’s not even worth talking about.

Okay, Prabhudeva does kick it up a notch here, with his cool Manga inspired images, lots of sword poses and slow motion that would look perfect in the pages of a graphic novel.  Also, call me crazy, but I think his choreographer’s touch is there in the rhythm of the fight scenes too!  They just feel a little more, I don’t know, peppy?  Well paced out?  Varied in speed? Than they usually do.  I also found it fascinating that Ajay continues to be a terrible dancer, and an amazing fighter.  You would think these two skills would go together!  Both involve following precise physical instructions, flexibility, fast and slow movement, and reacting to partners.  And yet, in one area he is the best, and in the other, the worst.

It was hilarious picturing Prabhu trying to come up with steps that would work for him.  Especially in the love song, where he ended up literally just pointing his finger in the air.  That was it, that was his “move”.  But at least he could do it well!  Better that than something cornea scarring like his “dancing” in Ishq.

(Which is worse, Ajay’s dancing or the fit of Kajol’s dress?)

Beyond the cool imagery and amazing fight sequences, this also had a surprisingly feminist plot.  In it’s own strange over the top way.  I mean, if we take it as a given that gender roles will always be ridiculous and a little strange in southern action movies (especially those directed by Prabhudeva), then at least the gender roles in this one were strange in a kind of female empowering way.

Yes, on the one hand, Ajay’s penis had some amazing ability to “heal” Sonakshi.  That was ridiculous.  But on the other hand, the result of this is that Sonakshi is essentially trying to seduce/molest him constantly, thereby reversing the standard gender roles.  She stalks him, lies to him in order to spend time together, suggests a swimming date so she can see him in minimal clothing, and even tries to drug him!  The whole time, egged on by her group of female friends!  It’s basically exactly what a hero might do, complete with the homosocial group supporting him, but it’s the heroine!

The really gender-bender stuff doesn’t start until the second half of the movie, which means now I have to get into SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER stuff

 

 

 

It took me the longest time to figure out what was happening in this movie.  But it’s not my fault!  I think it was supposed to be confusing.  We start with a nice polite guy working at a resort hotel in the mountains.  He tells his boss that he needs a week off to travel to the city for a celebration, and next thing we see is the same guy arriving in Bombay, and seeming a lot rougher and tougher than he was in the mountains.  And telling people that he was “laying low” for a month, but now he is back!

So, is this the same guy?  He was working in the mountains and pretending to be peaceful and calm because he was in hiding?  That’s certainly what it seems like!

We see him get into a fight almost immediately and beat everyone up like the street tough he is.  And then he goes to buy underwear, and while he is trying it on, Sonakshi bursts into the dressing room and sees him without any.  Okay, who tries on underwear?  That’s so gross!  I don’t want to think about someone trying on the underwear I later buy, and I also don’t want to think about putting on underwear in a dressing room.  Yuch!

But I like that we see this whole thing from Sonakshi’s perspective.  It’s not “woo-woo, a pretty girl saw me naked!”, it’s “hey! I saw a boy naked!”  And she doesn’t react with “oh my maidenly sensibilities!”, but more “well, that was a thing that happened.”

Okay, the rest of it is kind of silly, realizing that her congenital bad luck is finally over, putting it together that it is because of him, that is just ridiculous.  But it does lead to her friends trying to get a picture of Ajay in the altogether, and posting a photo of him on Facebook and sharing it with everyone.  Which is kind of an odd inversion of the usual SMS scandals, with the sexy videos of women taken unawares being shared among young men.

And it leads directly to the next half of the plot!  When mysterious overseas foreigners see the photo and immediately send people to Bombay to get “Him!”

At this point, I’m still thinking Ajay is just one guy, and I am a little confused.  He seems to be acting a bit too casual to have a major international gang after him.  But he is the hero, maybe he is just that fearless?

Anyway, romance-romance.  Sonakshi continues to try to catch Ajay, lying that she is a sociology student studying criminals and therefore wants to follow him around, suggesting they go swimming, when that doesn’t work, using the pills her friend gave her to try to dope him.  And this whole thing is just so she will have good luck for her first meeting with a potential fiance!  It’s just like the creepy guys who want a girl just for sex, but not to marry her!

Finally, Sonakshi ends up drugging herself by accident, and is touched when Ajay takes care of her.  And when she sees Ajay using his gunda powers for good.  Until, in the end, she proposes to him.  It’s super cute, the camera keeps watching her fingers fiddling with her earrings and her watch and all while she talks.  And Ajay is pretending that he doesn’t care, and just wants to dance (I say “pretending”, because I refuse to believe that Ajay, or his characters, ever wants to dance.), and then finally gets the hint and they embrace.  And then go to dance, just as the music stops.  Which leads to the awesome next song, introduced by Ajay rumbling “come on now, we’ve come all the way from India just to dance”.

But while the romance is going well, dark forces are gathering!  The mysterious foreigners have called the cops to help them (the cops are, of course, corrupt).  And Ajay arrives in town again?  So here’s where I start to be pretty sure, for the first time, that there are really two Ajays.  Only, the bad guys are probably after Sonakshi’s Ajay, right?  I mean, he’s the gunda, this is a sweet guy who avoids fights.

There are a couple of humorous mistaken identity moments, culminating in Ajay and Ajay passing each other, and the gundas following the new Ajay, not Sonakshi’s Ajay, down a dark alley.  He doesn’t resist when they tie him to a car, and it looks like it’s all over.  We had seen him going in and out of a hospital before this, and I kind of wondered if maybe he was dying?  Was that going to be the trick, the extra Ajay would die and Sonakshi’s Ajay would take his place or something?

But no!  So much more awesome!  Ajay is tied up, the bad guys are closing in on him, it’s all scarey because this is the nice sweet Ajay who is no good in a fight, and the bad guys think he is a big gunda!  And then, at the absolute last minute, BAM!!!  Awesome!  Ajay rips himself free by pulling apart the car to which he is tied!  And then kills EVERYONE!!!!  All calm and methodical about it.

This is one of those times when I felt like you could really tell that Prabhudeva was directing this.  Ajay can’t dance, but he can fight.  And his fight moves here, as Ajay 2, are completely different than Ajay 1.  Like, even the way he moves is different, smoother and more graceful.  We can tell right away that Ajay 2 is on a whole different level as a fighter than Ajay 1.

And Ajay 1 can tell too, which is why he is so scared when Ajay 2 confronts him in his apartment that night.  And then, flashback!!!

I haven’t done a full review of Chaahat yet, have I?  Just mentioned it because of the Bahubaali actress?  Anyway, this reminded me so much of Chaahat.  The usual poor innocent threatened by the bad guy who falls in lust at first sight plot (see: Eega), only with the genders reversed!  In Chaahat, it’s Ranimaa from Bahubaali falling for babyfaced Shahrukh who is really in love with Pooja Bhatt and trying his best to remain faithful to her.  In this, it’s Manasvi Mamgai falling for shirtless Ajay who is really in love with Yami Gautam and wants to be faithful to her.  And the real similarity is that both women also have crazy brothers.

The brothers are important, because to have the real gender reversal, the man turned into the threatened object of desire, there has to be an actual threat.  That’s what the brother provides.  Maybe someday gender roles will have progressed enough that we will have a movie like this where the woman is both the person who desires and the one who provides the threat (maybe we already have and I’m just not remembering it?), but we aren’t quite there yet.

Anyway, flashback Ajay gets an awesome introduction, showing up with a huge samurai sword to fight a bunch of guys and rescue Manasvi, his boss’ sister.  Naturally, she’s in love with him.  But he rejects her bluntly, because he’s got a girlfriend back home.  And then we get an amazing song where Ajay gets to be the one unconsciously going about his business while Manasvi, the woman, is the nutty one watching him and beating up her rivals (slams a girl’s head through the bathroom mirror!).

Of course, this can’t last.  Eventually she sends people after Yami, Ajay gets them out of it, but also decides it’s time to leave the country and start a new life.  Especially since Yami is pregnant.  Adorable love song (this is the one where Ajay literally just moves his hand), all is good, until they are tracked down again.  But, twist!  Despite being beaten and shot and all sorts of things, Yami doesn’t actually die!  Ajay manages to get her to India, where he has been lying (laying?) low helping her recover, and now she is about to give birth, very dangerous, and of course this is when Ajay has to be all distracted by the bad guys chasing him.

So, ridiculous plan, Sonakshi’s Ajay will go to Bangkok pretending to be Yami’s Ajay, which will make the bad guys back off so Yami’s Ajay can stay with her and take care of her.  Really, what????  It would make so much more sense if the Ajay’s were established as twins or something!  Why would you do this for a complete stranger just because he looked like you and seemed like a nice guy?!?!?

(Also, this is what Sonakshi thinks about when she learns that Ajay still loves her, he was just acting weird because it was a different Ajay, and her Ajay is bravely risking his life)

Although this does lead to my favorite moment in the movie.  Ajay 2 is guiding Ajay 1 through a tricky business meeting by the use of a hidden cell phone and a headset.  But, Ajay 2’s cell runs out of power!  Right when someone is pressing Ajay 1 on a tricky point!  So, Ajay turns his head, raises his hand, and shoots the guy!!!!  And then while everyone else is screaming and jumping, says “Police informer.  Had to kill him.”  I am so borrowing that next time I don’t have a good answer at work!  Or, a family reunion!  Really, it works to get out of any awkward situation.

Ajay 1 manages to get through it all, barely, until at the last minute they figure out who he is through some complicated stuff with cell phones.  It ends with Yami, just recovered from birth/brutal attack being kidnapped, along with the baby, and Ajay 1 being taken to be killed.  Only, it’s not Ajay 1!  He traded places with Ajay 2!  And Ajay 2 is MAAAAAD!

Thank goodness, they take the baby away before the fight scene.  I do like things like Dream Girl or Raja Hindustani with the extra tinge of excitement in knowing there is a real baby being thrown around during the fight scene.  But it is also a bit distracting, so probably better with the new safety standards and taking the actual real baby out of the shed before all the explosions start.

And we get a little Snow White moment, when the bad guy who took the baby away turns out to not be THAT bad, and actually he didn’t hand it over to the big bads, he was just hiding it until the fight scene was over, and the little Ajay-Yami-Baby family could be reunited.  And all return to India to be greeted at the airport by Sonakshi and Ajay for one more bad split screen effect of two Ajays.

But that’s not the ending.  The real ending is when Prabhu finally comes out to dance!  And to make a little joke about how bad Ajay is at dancing.  I love watching Prabhu do his super graceful amazing moves, and then Ajay try to copy them!

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7 thoughts on “Action Jackson: A Manga Crossed With Tarentino and Mixed to a Southern Beat

  1. Pingback: My Movie To-Do List: Let Me Know If I Missed Something! And Click the Links to See What I Have Already Covered! | dontcallitbollywood

  2. You’re right. A Vijay release IS a huge thing in Tamil. And from.what my Tamil friend has been telling me, this teaser is trending like anything in Tamil Nadu.
    The music has already released actually. Just hasn’t been featured in the teaser. In Tamil unlike Hindi, the music videos release only after the movie. Most of the time anyway. The audio tracks are released beforehand through an audio launch function, which is one of the biggest promotional event for Tamil, and I think Telugu films too.

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    • Also, this movie is directed by Atlee, who had given Vijay a huge hit last year with Theri. Theri is a good masala film, you might like it. I don’t think you have watched a Vijay film, have you? This might be a good one to start with.
      Vijay has also acted in the original of Holiday and females of many Telugu movies like Pokiri, Okkadu, Khushi, which were later remade in Hindi as well.

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    • It looks like a fun movie too, like I wouldn’t need to do a lot of research on Tamil society or anything in order to be able to understand it.

      On Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 9:10 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. Pingback: Film Reviews | dontcallitbollywood

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