“Beast” is an awkward blend of camp, over-the-top action picture and even campier over-produced production numbers featuring gorgeous stars of the Indian cinema and a sea of sexily-choreographed Indian extras.
Two and a half hours of slaughter, song and dance?
“In a situation like this,” one ineffectual official sputters (in Tamil with English subtitles) outside a mall that’s been taken over by terrorists, “did you really expect to see a terrorist’s head fly out the window?”
Yes, today’s “Around the World with Netflix” outing reminds us that there’ll always be a Bollywood.
Thalapathy Vijay and Pooja Hegde co-star in this Nelson Dilipkumar film. “Veera” is an ex-cop suffering from the mildest (most inexpressive, anyway) case of PTSD ever. An elaborately choreographed raid to shoot up dozens of terrorists to capture their leader got a little girl killed.
His “recovery” is complete when he joins an incompetent Tamilnadu (South Indian state) private security firm run by an aging lummox (Vtv Ganesh). That’s also the workplace of this beauty, Preetha (Hegde), who came on to him at a wedding (not hers) and promptly ditched her “short” and clingy fiance.
If Veera and Preetha lead the entire wedding party in a rowdy, super-sexy and riotously over-the-top dance-off, it must be love.
First day on the job? A mall that fired them as their “security” is taken over by terrorists who want to bargain for their leader’s release. Veera must stab, strangle and behead his way through the bad guys to save the day, get the girl and sing and dance happily ever after.
Two disparate genres like this are only ever mashed up on the Subcontinent. And while the singing and dancing are but bookends — there’s no twerking, popping or locking in the midst of the mayhem — large passages of this movie underscore how ill-suited they are paired-up in the same film.
Veera loudly shoots and grenades his way through minions in the film’s opening battle, while in the building next door, terrorist leaders sit quietly, discuss their plans and sip tea, not hearing the bedlam a few meters away.
The hostage incident has comic relief — two bumbling security slobs named “Jack” and “Jill” (Redin Kingsley and Yogi Babu) — and a painfully elaborate string of “Kill this guy this way” and “that guy another way” episodes, dully interrupted by what inept officials are twiddling their thumbs over outside.
It’s never as funny as it should be, nor as grimly exciting as it might have been, although there’s a giddy Fosse-meets-hip hop quality to the song and dance, and the wirework/FX-littered fights have their John Woo moments.
Vijay is more convincing as a singing actor than as a badass, and there’s no subtlety to either pose. And Hegde needs to work outside of the patriarchal Indian cinema for us to see if she’s more than a beauty who can sing and dance. Writer-director Nelson — how he bills himself, but I hear he’s considering “Lord Nelson” — gives her nothing to do here.
Rating: TV-MA, bloody violence aplenty
Cast: Thalapathy Vijay, Pooja Hegde, Vtv Ganesh, Yogi Babu, Redin Kingsley and Shine Tom Chacko
Credits: Scripted and directed by Nelson Dilipkumar . A Netflix release.
Running time: 2:36