I finally saw a Vikram movie! And my goodness, he is good! From what I can see, this isn’t a very good movie of his. But he is far far more entertaining even in this than the other actors I have seen.
And now is the time when everyone yells at me for watching this movie 10 Endrathukulla rather than one of Vikram’s other superior movies. Yes yes, I am aware that I am flawed and foolish. I didn’t sit down and decide that out of all the movies in the world, this is the Vikram movie I will watch. I turned on Hotstar and went “oh look, a movie is suddenly available that has Vikram in it. I shall watch that because it is here”. If you want me to have a more complicated decision process, you can donate money to me (there is a link at the end of the review) and then I can quit my job and have time to deliberate and find the best possible film instead of doing catch as catch can with whatever is easily available in my limited free time.
Besides that, I have to say that I don’t necessarily WANT to watch the best film of all time every time. Obviously some of the time I do, but I also think there is value in watching mid-range movies as I try to get a grasp on an actor and on an industry. It helps me to appreciate the better films more, and to understand what is the base level of acceptable quality. And this film definitely did that job for me. I was able to appreciate what Vikram brought to even this very simple role, and the high level of action and imagination required even for this lessor action movie.
And it is an imaginative film! And a very fun one. If this is a lessor movie, then it makes me think the high quality movies must be very very high quality. Yes, the plot zigs in odd ways, and our hero’s character does too, but the heroine has a strong part and an interesting backstory, the action scenes are over the top and entertaining, and Vikram makes me believe in his character and want to watch more of him. And the songs are catch and the colors are bright and overall it is a fun film to watch on a Sunday afternoon.
It’s also clearly inspired by one of the all time great recent action series, The Transporter. I have seen all 3 Transporter movies and own two of them, because they are GENIUS. And this is kind of a perfect remake, taking the central conceit and expanding and “Indianizing” it in a whole variety of ways. It’s not a rip-off, or an homage, it is a remix and a reimagining into something totally new. And actually better. At least, partially better, there is a moral concept and a balance between genders that is missing in the original. And, of course, the hero has to have an elaborate backstory in the Indian version, he can’t just be “The Transporter”. The action scenes aren’t as good, but we are talking a Luc Bresson produced film staring Jason Stratham, the action scenes will never be as good. But this film works with that, instead of making the action scenes the centerpiece with a ruthlessly focused plot surrounding them, it allows the plot to breath a bit, balancing action with romance and morality and message.
(Just such great movies.)
I don’t want to oversell this film, it’s not a great romance or a great moral film or even a great action movie. But it is enjoyable and a respectable attempt at a remake. Well worth watching, even if there are other things out there that are more worth watching.
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So yeah, at the basic level it’s just The Transporter. A combination of Transporter 1 and Transporter 3 (not 2, that’s the one with the kid), our hero is a mysterious man who is super awesome at driving his car and takes on impossible missions. His latest mission is to deliver a young woman, but of course he ends up softening and catching feelings for her, which complicates the part where he is supposed to deliver her. There are loads of awesome car chases, and an odd couple romance between a silent focused driver and the chatty passenger, and then the internal tension of wondering if his moral code will allow him to break his contract in order to do the right thing. Oh man, now I really just want to watch The Transporter!
Anyway, this movie adds on all sorts of interesting touches to that basic structure. First, we get a flashback explaining The Transporter’s motivation. He was in an accident which left his beloved little sister in a coma. Now he takes on these driving missions to help pay for her car, and he drives without fear because the worst driving incident has already happened.
But what’s way way more interesting to me is the background they give to the heroine, Samantha Ruth Prabhu. The original Transporter movies barely give the female passengers names let alone backstories. But here, we learn everything about Samantha. She is never just “passenger”. We meet her at a friend’s birthday party, egotistical enough to be taking selfies of herself, but kind enough to want to take the extra cake to the street kids across the street.
Next we see her hiding from the house mother at the hostel, teasing her friend about a date, and finally showing up for a driving lesson only to find that Vikram, the driver, is her instructor. And she is a terrible driver. But strangely confident about it.
Finally, most importantly, Vikram is given the job of delivering a car, not realizing Samantha Ruth Prabhu is in the trunk. And when Samantha gets out, is chased by thugs, Vikram saves her and puts her back in the car, not realizing that she was supposed to be his delivery all along.
Which leads to their odd couple romance. Vikram and Samantha travel across the country, running out of money and scamming food, toll booths, etc. And Samantha admits that she is enjoying this more than any other time in her life, as an orphan she has never felt like she has anyone who is “hers” in the world, but now she feels like Vikram belongs to her. And Vikram can’t let himself say the same thing back to her, but kisses her forehead. It’s super sweet.
And it just gets better once they arrive! Vikram didn’t know what was happening because the man who hired him couldn’t reach him, once they get there he learns both that Samantha is the cargo, and that his coma sister is being threatened to make sure he completes his job. And, in the twist I like the best, Samantha doesn’t even ask why he betrays her, just accepts that he must have a good reason and goes with it. It’s a very cool move on the part of an action heroine, not to scream and cry and so on, but just to be smart enough to understand that there must be a reason for what is happening.
The part I really love is the explanation for why Samantha had to be kidnapped. It is SO COOL. See, she looks identical to an evil landlord’s daughter who lead and planned a massacre of lower class people that were trying to start a school. So, a super evil thing that we can all get behind and which isn’t usually mentioned in films. And a super evil young woman who rides a horse and carries a sword. Not that I like her, she is super evil, but it’s very neat to have a straight up evil woman, not evil-in-a-female-way, but just straight evil. And her family loves her enough to try to break her out of jail and fake her death because the only female in their family and that is super important and valuable. Yes, they are evil people, but they also are smart enough to recognize the value of a strong woman.
(Oh, and there’s also a random item song with the woman who runs a roadside place and has a “who can put a fun together fastest” competition with him)
This also means that Samantha-the-actress gets a really cool acting challenge, after playing the peppy innocent open-hearted orphan girl for the rest of the movie, she gets to play the eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevil coldhearted rich landlord woman. And she nails it! Super satisfying. Shows that the filmmakers knew what they had and didn’t want to waste it.
Which brings me to Vikram. He actually makes this role interesting. Magnetic really, it could be just another boring action role, but I can’t look away from him. And I am rooting for him and I feel his pain and I want him to be happy. And I want him to be with Samantha, even though I can see at a glance that he is way way too old for her.
This may not have been the best first Vikram movie to watch, but it also wasn’t the worst, because it made me want to see more from him.
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