Fantastic Fest Review: COMMANDO - A ONE MAN ARMY: Stunts, Singing, and Silliness

Hey! You've got your ONG BAK in my Bollywood!

Something for everyone, ladies and gentlemen. I think we’ve finally found it, the movie that offers thrills for all ages and genders. Picture a Frankenstein’s monster consisting of equal parts Ong Bak and My Big Fat Greek Wedding; Rambo and Chennai Express. Commando plays like the dumb 80s action movie you’d assume from its name, a film entirely comfortable with its simplicity of plot and character.

You’ve got good guy Karanvir Dogra (Vidyut Jamwal), a man trained by the government to kill, yet he's honorable and pure of heart. He’s thrust into a situation where he has to protect Simrit (Pooja Chopra), who is being hunted by AK-47 (Jaideep Alawat), a gangster who seeks to marry her. For a sociopathic murderer to care deeply about asking a father for his daughter’s hand in marriage might seem amusing, but this is a Hindi production, after all. They’re known for being chaste (not to mention caste) - their idea of romance involves a man and a woman pining after each other, dancing and singing in courtship and then coming oh-so-close to kissing.

But even though he knows enough to wait for marriage before taking what he wants, there's no question how bad he is. All you need to do is look at him - the guy doesn’t even have any pupils. His white eyes glare demonically, supplemented with a grin widened to shit-eating perfection. His name is AK-47, fer chrissakes. There’s no grey area here, he’s as evil as our hero is pure.

A pure piece of ass, that is. Actor Vidyut Jamwal is the kind of guy that’s so good-looking he leaves straight males questioning their sexuality. He wastes no time ripping off his shirt to show off his guns (which, hilariously, Simrit immediately points out) and spends the entire film being chivalrous, doing insane stunts, and stabbing people to death… when he’s not singing on sandy beaches with his love interest. What’s not to like?

But hey, come for the romance and stay for the stunts, or vice versa. The stunts here are really strong and done without any wirework, the kind of crazy stuff that'll make you leap out of your seat in disbelief, reaching for a remote to rewind it, only to find out that the filmmakers did your work for you, replaying each highlight in slow motion and from varied angles so you know that shit was real. The stunts are impressive as the musical numbers are lavish. There’s a good three or so lengthy numbers, fun and easy on the eyes, a nice break from the ultraviolence on display.

It all adds up to a film that’s a joy to behold. It’s not going to end up on any best-of lists or change the way you view cinema, but it’s one of the more entertaining films you’ll see with a crowd.

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