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Director: Ahmed Khan

Cast: Tiger Shroff, Shraddha Kapoor, Riteish Deshmukh

In a scene in Baaghi 3, the dreaded terrorist Abu Jalal Gaza asks his men who has invaded his checkpost. Is it America, Russia, the Mossad, who? It’s our very own Tiger Shroff, who in this film is taking on an entire country – Syria.

I suppose the stakes had to be raised. The first film was a mashup of the Telugu film Varsham, The Karate Kid and The Raid: Redemption. Tiger single-handedly took on an entire building filled with killers. The second was a remake of the Telugu film Kshanam. In the 16-minute-long climax, Tiger destroyed the villain and his army. Baaghi 3 is an adaptation of the 2012 Tamil film Vettai. In that film, the two brothers went up against the local gangsters. But Tiger needs heftier opposition so director Ahmed Khan, who has also designed the action, decided to pit him against the war-torn country. Of course, the film has no real interest in Syria or its people. Baaghi 3 was extensively shot in Serbia, which fills in for Syria. The devastated landscape is mostly used to make Tiger look even more heroic. Is that problematic? Yes. But this film also advocates encounter killings and casually shows a father whipping a child with a belt.

Director Ahmed Khan seems to be enthralled by his leading man. At one point, the action actually pauses so Tiger Shroff can pose on top of smashed helicopters, very much the savior of the world

This isn’t cinema operating on any logic, not even its own. Baaghi 3 is ostensibly part of a franchise but there is nothing tying the three films together except Tiger Shroff playing a character named Ronnie who is gifted with superhuman strength and agility. Ahmed tries to strengthen the link by self-referencing dialogue from his earlier films – so at one point, Jackie Shroff playing Tiger’s dad says: Jo torture lag raha hai woh uska warm up hai. Which you might recognize as Tiger’s signature line from Baaghi 2. And in another, Tiger delivers his own dialogue from Heropanti saying about heropanti – kya karoon, sabko aati nahi, meri jaati nahi. It’s all very meta.

It took five writers to figure out how this story could move from Agra to Syria. Producer Sajid Nadiadwala has been credited with story adaptation. Farhad Samji, Sparsh Khetarpal, Tasha Bhambra and Madhur Sharma also have writing credits. And yet, the actual story in Baaghi 3 feels like a placeholder until the next action set-piece kicks in. Some of which are impressive. I’ve always maintained that Tiger in action is a thing of beauty. It’s thrilling to see him hanging from a wire, tossing grenades at the bad guys or outrunning gigantic helicopters. Ahmed also seems to be enthralled by his leading man. So at one point, the action actually pauses so he can pose on top of smashed helicopters, very much the savior of the world. Bronzed and shirtless, Tiger can outrun helicopters, tanks, men. What he can’t outrun is the mediocrity of this film.

Tiger needs a compelling story to hang that action on. Otherwise all his hard work doesn’t add up to much

Neither can the rest of actors, including the wonderful Jaideep Ahlawat and Vijay Varma. In the climax, they exchange this look of bonding and I felt like they were silently asking each other if the paycheck was worth it. Shraddha Kapoor, who was in Baaghi, returns to play the one-note character of chirpy girlfriend.  And then there’s Riteish Deshmukh, hamming gloriously as Ronnie’s timid elder brother Vikram. Every time Vikram is in trouble, he screams, ‘Ronnie’ and Ronnie appears. It’s unintentional comedy. As is a moment when the two brothers reunite for the first time after Vikram is assaulted. They shed tears and gaze at each other while the much-feared villain Gaza waits and generously allows them to have a family moment. Disha Patani also pops in to dance at a Syrian nightclub and provide momentary relief from the furious action.

As I said in my Baaghi 2 review, Tiger Shroff is the platonic ideal of the Bollywood action hero. He makes outlandish situations exciting. But even he needs a compelling story to hang that action on. Otherwise all his hard work doesn’t add up to much. And we leave the theater feeling pummeled like those countless men he hits in this film.

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