22 Jump Street***
Dir: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Starring: Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Ice Cube, Amber Stevens, Jillian Bell
The sequel to the surprisingly funny and entertaining cinematic reboot of a popular ‘80s television show, 21 Jump Street, is possibly even funnier if not more entertaining this time around thus surpassing expectations for the second time in a row. In relentless meta-textual commentary, directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, fresh off their success of The Lego Movie, hilariously drive home the contradictions between the corporate compulsions that drive the need and set the boundaries for sequels (as one character says in the film “Do the same thing as last time. Exactly the same thing”) and the desire for artistic growth and integrity that usually results in disaster (“It’s always worse the second time around — a slow, painful unraveling”).
The movie’s second target is the homo-erotic subtext of many buddy action movies. Our well-meaning but bumbling heroes from the first movie, police officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill, who also had a hand in writing the movie) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are back as they go undercover on a college campus to uncover a drug ring but their relationship is straining at the seams “Maybe . . . maybe we should just investigate different people,” suggests Jenko, as he finds he has even more in common with the college quarterback Zook (Wyatt Russell, Kurt’s son) than with his existing partner. And the movie finishes with one of the funniest end credit sequences (featuring cameos from a number of well-known names) that you’ll ever see as it teases an endless number of future sequels in the franchise. Along the way, the movie also skewers other action movie clichés as well as throwing in many other funny bits such as Ice Cube’s uproarious rant at a college event buffet table and Jillian Bell’s deadpan performance as a cynical college undergrad with more to her than meets the eye.
There are some sluggish parts in the movie but its pleasures outweigh any negatives. If the franchise keeps delivering like this then I’m certainly up for 23 Jump Street.
Cut to chase: Possibly even funnier than the first Jump Street.
Dir: Pradeep Sarkar
Starring: Rani Mukerji, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Jisshu Sengupta, Priyanka Sharma, Anil George, Mona Ambegaonkar
Rani Mukerjee is very, very good as Shivani Shivaji Roy, the tough, relentless cop intent on hunting down the ringleaders of a sex-trafficking ring who are kidnapping young girls from all over India. She’s very much up to the physical and emotional demands of the role as the quest for Shivani is more than just duty for her – a young, orphaned girl that she considers almost like a daughter is one of the abductees. Matching her all the way, in an impressive debut, is Tahir Raj Bhasin. He plays Karan, an atypical bad-guy – a young, polite (he calls Shivani, “Ma’am” whenever he speaks to her), English-speaking crime kingpin who plays a game of cat-and-mouse with his pursuer. Karan never really loses his cool but you are always aware of his menace. Other good performances come from Anil George as Vakil, another one of the criminal gang’s leaders and Mona Ambegaonkar (better known for her TV work but talented enough that she really should be better known than she has been), as Vakil’s significant other and concealing a secret of her own.
The movie’s other strengths are its compact length (under 2 hours) and gritty feel, Pradeep Sarkar’s (Parineeta) tight direction, the dialogues – the back-and-forth between Karan and Shivani is noteworthy and the casual banter between Shivani and the men in her unit is always believable – and the way the script quietly establishes the relationship between Shivani and her husband and niece with just a few throwaway lines. The lack of any songs (there’s a background number near the end of the movie) also helps to maintain the movie’s intensity and edgy mood.
The movie’s climactic scenes are a bit more formulaic and less realistic than the rest of the movie but, nevertheless, Mardaani keeps you involved throughout. Recommended.
Cut to chase: Gritty, involving crime drama.