Directed by: Dilip Ghosh
Written by: Ritesh Shah
Cast: Vidyut Jamwal, Pooja Chopra, Jaideep Ahlawat
“If you’ve ever thought to yourself I wish Stallone would sing and dance more, then this is the movie for you.” That is how Commando: A One Man Army was introduced at Fantastic Fest. My friend turned to me and said, “you know I’ve always thought that.” I hadn’t but as soon as the topic was broached I wished that I had. Now that I’ve seen this movie, I have to say Stallone should sing and dance more. Commando is a straight forward action movie (directed by Dilip Ghosh) in the vein of many early nineties classics. Incredibly skilled soldier/assassin/mercenary must fight off a bunch of goons, save a lady from a horrifically dressed villain, and in so doing relay a message about the strength inside of everyone.
Two things make Commando different from American iterations of this structure. First is the star. Vidyut Jamwal (in his first leading role) is another of the does his own stunts and knows so much kung fu breed of action stars from around the world. He’s also one of the most handsome men to ever live. According to a message at the beginning of the film CGI and wires were only used in a single scene, which is amazing when you consider all of the insane jumps, flips, and other stunts that Jamwal flawlessly executes. It’s reminiscent of Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan, but with a parkour edge.
The second big difference is the Bollywood flare. The musical numbers, crazy costumes, and glaring lack of subtlety adds another layer of fun to a movie that is already filled to bursting. The timing of the songs is very confusing, but that’s not so bad once you realize that they are going to happen once in a while, often without warning.
Jamwal plays commando/hunk Karanvir Dogra. During a routine training mission, his helicopter crashes in China. The Chinese government believes Karan to be a spy, so in order to avoid an international incident the powers that be deny any knowledge of his existence (Ghost Protocol baby). After a year of enduring torture in a Chinese military prison Karan escapes and makes his way back to India. Meanwhile, in Dilerkot (a small town in India) the criminal AK 74 (his initials and the year he was born), played gleefully over the top by Jaideep Ahlawat, is taking control using drug dealing and intimidation. In his drive for control AK lays his iris and pupil free eyes on Simrit (Pooja Chopra) the beautiful daughter of an elderly community leader. Simrit refuses AK (evil, freaky eyes, horrible clothes, and all), after a stunning musical number declaring his love. Rather than spend the rest of her life with this freaky monster of a guy she runs away and eventually encounters Karan. The commando rescues her. They flee to the forest, which sets up a series of huge fights that are totally awesome.
Commando is all spectacle no doubt (there is never a close-up without a music cue), and it rules big-time. The fights are unique (I’ve never seen such a big dude move so gracefully). The musical numbers are a nice shift in the pacing, and the villainy really pushes the movie over the top. Pooja Chopra also does a fabulous job with a character that could have been really annoying. Instead, Simrit is funny, brave, and smart, even when things are less than great. Mix her performance with Jamwal’s excellent physical work, Ahlawat’s hilarious evil, and bizarre musical surprises and you’ve got yourself a boatload of fun. Definitely a movie worth seeing if you get the chance.