Dir: Ali Abbas Zafar
Starring: Salman Khan, Anushka Sharma, Amit Sadh, Kumud Mishra, Randeep Hooda, Anant Sharma
Salman Khan has his screen persona down pat by now and that has guaranteed him almost unparalleled success in the last half decade. His brawny but impishly pure-heart man-child schtick is so beloved by Bollywood cine-goers that no matter what the quality of his movies (and the quality is – with some exceptions – usually atrocious) the fans still throng the aisles. In these circumstances, it would be easy for Salman Khan to coast and continue to churn out his patented dreck. However, he seems to have upped his game recently. Bajrangi Bhaijan was rather delightful, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo was less painful than his usual fare, and in Sultan he actually stretches himself both physically and as an actor – and meets the challenge.
The movie itself is pretty standard fare as far as sports movies go. A has-been/never-was rises to conquer severe obstacles – both personal as well as sporting – and achieves both redemption and success. But writer/director Ali Abbas Zafar milks the formula for all its worth and also gives Salman Khan a character to essay that is more fully rounded than most associated with the actor. Wrestler Sultan Ali Khan has both strengths and weaknesses – including arrogance and stubbornness – which lead to both triumph and loss. Making a comeback in an MMA tournament he has to look within as well as without to succeed. Will he meet this ultimate challenge? What do you think?
Salman Khan is believable and effective in both avatars – the wrestler and the man. He is well backed up by the rest of the cast, including Anushka Sharma as both love interest and fellow wrestler. Kumud Mishra, Amit Sadh and Randeep Hooda are pretty good as well and help sustain the energy and pace of a movie which runs almost 3 hours.
Cut to chase: Salman Khan shines in one of his best movies.
The Legend of Tarzan ** ½
Dir: David Yates.
Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Djimon Hounsou
I loved the Tarzan novels as a kid. But there’s something a bit uncomfortable about the character in this day and age of greater political awareness. The idea of a white man who is the “king” of the African jungle and its inhabitants, both man and beast, just doesn’t sit well. Selling such a character to modern-day audiences would take a herculean effort.
The director, writers, and cast sure do give it a good old college try. Updating the character (essayed by Alexander Skarsgård), giving him a slight makeover, but also making sure that appropriate importance and screen-time is given to the African denizens as well as to Tarzan’s mate, Jane (Margot Robbie), as plucky and competent as her husband (which she always was in the books, if memory serves me correctly).There’s even Samuel L. Jackson, playing George Washington Williams, a real-life historical character. The good guys join forces to thwart the evil intentions of King Leopold II of Belgium and his key henchman, Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz) in the Belgian Congo but the plot never quite convinces and despite some decent action sequences and CGI effects the movie never really takes off, weighed down as it is by its burden of political correctness. It’s a tough balancing act and one that the movie doesn’t quite manage.
That being said, The Legend Of Tarzan, is never exactly boring either. It just somehow fails to attain relevance.
Cut to chase: Not boring but not spectacular either.
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* Not on your life ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see ***½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection