RDX Review: A Generic Action Film That Doesn’t Go Beyond Its Self-Imposed Mass-Entertainer Image

There is adequate technical flair, sure, but where’s the unique emotional heft that makes us root for its characters?

Director: Nahas Hidhayath

Cast: Shane Nigam, Neeraj Madhav, Antony Varghese, Mahima Nambiar

Duration: 154 minutes

Available in: Theatres

Nahas Hidhayath’s debut is a loud arrival for sure, and the decibel levels in the film do live up to the promise held in its title. This is an addition to Malayalam cinema’s attempts at the “mass” entertainer, one that comes with a specific aim in increasing testosterone levels of a largely male audience. Every industry wants a piece of this lucrative cake, and there have been results of varying degrees, mostly resulting in misfires. But at the same time, there are not many filmmakers learning any lessons from these losses.

This is a fairly simple film. It doesn’t have lofty ambitions. But the problem is that it doesn’t attempt anything beyond its seemingly self-imposed image of the mass entertainer. We have a classic back-from-retirement revenge template, but not a single moment or plot beat that rises above it. There is adequate technical flair, sure, but where’s the unique emotional heft that makes us root for its characters? The film can keep you engaged after a certain point because of the familiarity it builds with its characters over the first half, but there’s no denying that all of it is utterly generic. 

Neeraj Madhav in RDX
Neeraj Madhav in RDX

Speaking in the language of the audience that clearly wants these films made – elevation shouldn’t come ahead of character. Similarly, it’s ideal when emotion precedes action. Even stars as big as Rajinikanth and Chiranjeevi are getting tired responses from the audience when their films have the same problem. Filmmakers need to believe that cheers from an audience would be louder when there’s an organic story backing the characters played by stars. We only have good actors here, and building their star personas require a lot more than back-to-the-camera shots and a heavy background score. The one action bit involving the female lead in the second half is the only one that resonated as a well-constructed payoff.

The film does have an impactful setup, at least in terms of the gravity of the visuals depicted – an entire family bludgeoned to hurt, a chain being snatched from a baby’s neck – these images definitely build an expectation for the forthcoming vengeance. But with the way the screenplay is structured, the film has to then cut to a lengthy and dull flashback portion to establish its characters. All the information we’re going to get from the flashback is fairly delivered within the setup itself, down to the dynamics between all characters. They were a team, something bad went down and they had to be separated – we know that, but what’s more to it? Give us something more than the obvious, please. 

Robert, Dony and Xavier are childhood buddies, and the trio also happen to be excelling students of karate. There’s no beat that suggests why they are so drawn to flexing brawn. None of the characters have an inner world. Okay to be fair, that’s also probably asking for too much from a film that clearly knows it can win even by being perfunctory. But again, the actors seem to be passionately sinking their teeth deep into scenes where they’re meant to be all charged up, but the film doesn’t do justice to them. The template has everything in place to deliver more, but the makers are too satisfied with the bare minimum. As a side effect of this temperament, the film also indulges in problematic class profiling (which can also be read as caste profiling), with the way it relegates absolutely negative patterns on people from a certain “colony”.

Coming to the action sequences, which make up the USP of the film – and are also the cornerstone on which this project has probably been built – there’s always a semblance of high-octane, soaring voltage, but somehow the feeling never hits the bones. I’d attribute it to the writing, and the very obviously overcompensating background score. There’s one good sequence set inside a colony, which uses both location and props well. This film on the whole can also be called a showreel for Anbariv, but the work here is also not something they haven’t exhibited in other films of theirs, it’s just that there’s a mashup and more of it in here. The editing of the action blocks seems sharp and like quite the flex at first glance, but I eventually started finding the tendency to cut to every available angle to be quite tedious. It also often breaks the flow of the choreography, restricting the amount of visual punch a single stunt can pack. Of course, I need to acknowledge that this film is being targeted at the shorts/reels crowd who’re eagerly waiting to make their own coked-up edits of the action – it makes some sense that the makers would pre-empt this tendency and provide that high in their film itself. But the result isn’t too impressive.

Now here’s some wishful thinking on my part – I wish Malayalam cinema acknowledges that they’re in a post-Thallumaala era, and realise that there’s so much more that can be done to excess-of-fights cinema. It’s not wrong to want to show the world that we can also pull off the Big Multi-Starrer Action FilmTM, but it would make a big difference if done with a dash of personality. RDX will still find its audience, because this can seem like it’s exactly what they need at the moment, but they sure deserve better.

Watch the official trailer of RDX

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