As I’ve already stated in reviews for titles like Karnan, War, Saaho, Master, and 2.0, there is nothing Hollywood has to offer than can out-entertain mainstream Indian action cinema. While American action franchises like the MCU and the Fast & Furious “saga” have long outlasted their initial novelty, Indian movie industries like Kollywood & Tollywood routinely escalate the explosive absurdism of the genre to new, delirious heights audiences have never seen before. They recall Hong Kong’s heyday as the most exciting, inventive action scene in the world, when seemingly every new title—no matter how anonymous or cheap—instantly earned a place in the canon of all-time greats. And even with that miles-high industry standard looming over him, director S.S. Rajamouli might be establishing himself as the very best craftsman in modern Indian actioners – recently striking big with the two-part action epic Baahubali, and now following it up with the ferociously entertaining RRR. While most modern, bloated American action pics only offer a post-nap headache, a Rajamouli picture guarantees a skull-cracking good time.
RRR is an anti-colonialist epic about the power of friendship (and the power of bullets, and the power of wolves, and the power of grenades, and the power of tigers, and the power of dynamite, and the power of bears, oh my!). The two friends at the center are a fantastically unlikely pair, frequently compared to fire & water, or “a volcano & a wildfire” in the rock anthems that underscore their volatile bond. One is a militant supercop whose wuxia superheroics enable him to fight off an ocean of unruly protestors while armed with just a baton. The other is a rural tribal leader on a one-man, Schwarzenegger-style mission to avenge his people against a governmental wrong – culminating in releasing wild, blood-starved animals at a fancy garden party in a righteous act of terrorism. Separately, either one of these burly supermen could’ve been highlighted as the hero of their own over-the-top action adventure; likewise, either one could’ve played villain. Instead, the movie gives them equal time as dual protagonists, eventually pushing them to form Voltron (see also: Krang, Master Blaster) as one united force against a common, worthier enemy: white British colonizers. It’s a beautiful bromance between good, muscly buds, with plenty explosions, dance-offs, and feral animal attacks keeping up the energy as they fall further in bruv.
RRR never strays from its mission as a populist crowd-pleaser, but it’s also a fiercely political film. Every white British colonizer that rules over 1920s Delhi in the picture is a sneering, monstrous piece of shit, and the entire arc of the unlikely cop-dissident friendship that forms at that colony’s fringes is pushing for their violent overthrow. A pre-credits warning explains that the events of the film are fictional (a disclaimer that’s even less necessary than its companion warning that the wild “animals” are entirely CG), but both of the film’s dual heroes were real-life revolutionaries & populist heroes. Alluri Sitarama Raju & Komaram Bheem violently revolted against colonialist rule in the 1920s & 30s in separate rebellions. RRR functions as a kind of anti-imperialist fan fiction that turns those historical heroes of the people into modern heroes of the screen. At the very least, it’s a much more politically purposeful & satisfying superhero team-up than any comic book or street-racing equivalent I can name in its genre’s American competition. That probably goes without saying, but it is stunning to see populist cinema with sharpened fangs, since so much of what we’re fed at home is conspicuously toothless.
Anything else I could say in praise of RRR would just be a rambling list of exciting images. You don’t need to hear about a motorcycle being launched as an explosive projectile any more than you need to hear about a wolf & a tiger brawling for dominance or our two heroes locking arms for the first time against a full-flame backdrop. All you need to know is that friendship is beautiful, imperialism is evil, and S.S. Rajamouli knows how to entertain. See RRR big & loud while you can. Otherwise, you’ll regret missing the chance when it’s shrunken down to TV-scale on Netflix in a couple months.