×

Film Review: ‘R… Rajkumar’

The 'R' stands for 'Romeo,' but there's little to love in this sluggish Bollywood action comedy.

With:

Shahid Kapoor, Sonakshi Sinha, Sonu Sood, Ashish Vidyarthi, Mukul Dev, Asrani, Srihari. (Hindi dialogue).

Perpetually up-and-coming Bollywood star Shahid Kapoor still hasn’t quite arrived, judging from the woeful state of his latest, “R… Rajkumar.” Kapoor is best known for his energetic dancing, and the scenes here in which he kicks up his heels with curvy firebrand Sonakshi Sinha (“Bullett Raja”) are islands of enjoyment in a sluggish stream of head-bonking, eye-rolling, small-town gangster slapstick, complete with “boing!”/”splat!” sound effects.

The whoopee-cushion hijinks here are punctuated with incongruous outbursts of bloody violence, which, as in “Bullett Raja,” include cold-blooded professional killings done by characters who are supposed to be sympathetic, or even cute. The pic collected $1.4 million in its first day of release, a career-best opening for Kapoor, with credit being assigned to the popularity of the movie’s heavily promoted music (by pop-oriented film song specialist Pritam) and to the reputation of the film’s director and co-writer, celebrated dancer and choreographer Prabhu Dheva. These factors also bode well for the film’s success on the NRI circuit in the U.S.

Dheva’s presence is always welcome, on either side of the camera (here he offers only a brief glimpse of his rubber-legged pop-and-lock dance moves, in a tiny cameo), but most of his strenuous effort here goes into pumping up substandard material, a thin variation on the serviceable old plot about a nameless stranger who wanders into a dusty town and sets two packs of low-lives at each other’s throats — basically the story that made its way from Dashiell Hammett’s “Red Harvest” to “A Fistful of Dollars” by way of “Yojimbo.”

No such luck this time, however. We do get a mysterious stranger, played by Kapoor, but he’s a distinctly soft-boiled Desi dude in a backpack and sneakers. With his sharp dance moves repurposed as an honorary martial art, the slender Kapoor gets a lot of help from the camera trickery that is ubiquitous now in Bollywood action films. His character, Romeo Rajkumar (in case you were wondering what the “R” stands for), is empowered by love to thunderously kick the crap out of scores of vaudeville goondas, who hover in mid-air and rotate in slow-motion, after being hammered by RR’s seemingly hydraulic fists.

The welcome spark that Sinha brings to the obstreperous character of Chanda, “the girl,” only slightly makes up for the fact that her role in the story is as little more than a prize for the men to fight over. Chanda is the niece and ward of one of the gangsters, the hulking Manik Parmar (Ashish Vidyarthi), and has caught the eye of the other, Romeo’s nominal employer Shivraj (Sonu Sood). Parmar has promised Chanda to Shivraj in marriage in order to seal an alliance between the two dons. Obviously, no self-respecting lovestruck hero with a head-crushing high kick is about to let that happen.

This abusive twist on the arranged-marriage plot, which used to be common in Bollywood, could be wrenching, engrossing, even infuriating, if it wasn’t played out in a spirit of clownish one-upmanship among the variously thuggish men. Even Kapoor’s Rajkumar himself belongs on this blacklist, because his pushy, grabby, butt-wagging assault on Chanda’s affection in no way deserves the reward the plot confers on it. In real life, she would know better.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'R... Rajkumar'

Reviewed at AMC Orange 30, Orange, Calif., Dec. 6, 2013. Running-time: 146 MIN.

Production:

(India) An Eros Intl. release presented with Next Gen Films. Produced by Vikram Rajani, Sunil Lulla. Executive producer, Sanjay Mehta.

Crew:

Directed by Prabhu Dheva. Screenplay, Prabhu Dheva, Sunil Agarwal, Ravi S. Sundaram; dialogue, Shiraz Ahmed. Camera (color), Mohana Krishna; editor, Ballu Saluja; music, Pritam; lyrics, Anupam Amod, Mayur Puri; choreographers, Vishnu Deva, Bosco-Caesar, Sridhar; production designer, Nitin Chandrakant Desai; costume designers, Manish Malhotra, Rahil Raja, Kunal Rawal; stunts, Ravivarma.

With:

Shahid Kapoor, Sonakshi Sinha, Sonu Sood, Ashish Vidyarthi, Mukul Dev, Asrani, Srihari. (Hindi dialogue).

More Film

  • Samuel-W.-Gelfman

    Samuel Gelfman, Roger Corman Film Producer, Dies at 88

    Samuel Gelfman, a New York producer known for his work on Roger Corman’s “Caged Heat,” “Cockfighter” and “Cannonball!,” died Thursday morning at UCLA Hospital in Westwood following complications from heart and respiratory disease, his son Peter Gelfman confirmed. He was 88. Gelfman was born in Brooklyn, New York and was raised in Caldwell New Jersey [...]

  • Margot Robbie stars in ONCE UPON

    Box Office: 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' Pulls Ahead of 'Hobbs & Shaw' Overseas

    Sony’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” might not have hit No. 1 in North America, but Quentin Tarantino’s latest film is leading the way at the international box office, where it collected $53.7 million from 46 markets. That marks the best foreign opening of Tarantino’s career, coming in ahead of 2012’s “Django Unchained.” “Once [...]

  • Good Boys Movie

    Box Office: 'Good Boys' Leads Crowded Weekend With $21 Million

    The Bean Bag Boys, the self-appointed nickname for the trio of best friends in Universal’s “Good Boys,” are conquering much more than sixth grade. They are also leading the domestic box office, exceeding expectations and collecting $21 million on opening weekend. “Good Boys,” which screened at 3,204 North American theaters, is a much-needed win for [...]

  • Amanda Awards

    ‘Out Stealing Horses’ Tops Norway’s 2019 Amanda Awards

    HAUGESUND, Norway —  Hans Petter Moland’s sweeping literary adaptation “Out Stealing Horses” put in a dominant showing at Norway’s Amanda Awards on Saturday night, placing first with a collected five awards, including best Norwegian film. Celebrating its 35th edition this year, the Norwegian industry’s top film prize helped kick off the Haugesund Film Festival and [...]

  • Editorial use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    Richard Williams, 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' Animator, Dies at 86

    Renowned animator Richard Williams, best known for his work on “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” died Friday at his home in Bristol, England, Variety has confirmed. He was 86. Williams was a distinguished animator, director, producer, author and teacher whose work has garnered three Oscars and three BAFTA Awards. In addition to his groundbreaking work as [...]

  • Instinct

    Locarno Film Review: 'Instinct'

    Now that “Game of Thrones” has finally reached its conclusion, releasing its gifted international ensemble into the casting wilds, will Hollywood remember just what it has in Carice van Houten? It’s not that the statuesque Dutch thesp hasn’t been consistently employed since her startling 2006 breakout in Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book,” or even that she’s [...]

  • Good Boys Movie

    Box Office: 'Good Boys' Eyes Best Original Comedy Opening of 2019

    Universal’s “Good Boys” is surpassing expectations as it heads toward an estimated $20.8 million opening weekend at the domestic box office following $8.3 million in Friday ticket sales. That’s well above earlier estimates which placed the film in the $12 million to $15 million range, marking the first R-rated comedy to open at No. 1 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content