Action Jackson (2014) *HQ*

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The film starts off with the entry of Vishy (Ajay Devgn) in his regular fashion that’s combined with élan and style. For reasons unexplained till almost the interval, Vishy is at the target point of many goons who follow him left, right and centre to bump him off. As if this wasn’t enough, there comes Khushi (Sonakshi Sinha) who ‘experiences good luck’ in succession after seeing Vishy ‘family jewels’.

With this, Vishy adds one more ‘stalker’ to his list! It’s only towards the interval that the audiences get to know that Vishy has a doppelganger by the name of ‘AJ’, who by profession is a killer. And then it becomes clear that the goons actually mistook Vishy to be AJ and hence followed him everywhere. And when AJ and Vishy meet, the former explains the reason to the latter and his friend (Kunaal Roy Kapur) that since he refused to marry the dreaded goon and mafia kingpin Xavier (Anand Raj)’s highly obsessed sister Marina (debutante Manasvi Mamgai), the goons are out to kill him and the love of his life Anusha (Yami Gautam). Tracking down AJ in India, Xavier sends his henchmen to India to kill AJ, which is when AJ devises a plot with the help of Vishy to destroy Xavier and his crazy sister Marina and protect his wife and new born baby.

Does the simple man Vishy say yes to be a part of this risk taking plan and go to meet Marina in a foreign country, does the dreaded villain Xavier get to know about the plan of the duo, does AJ get to save the love of his life and does Khushi become truly lucky and unite with Vishy again is what forms the rest of the story.

Watching Action Jackson can be a challenging proposition. This film changes personality like a person suffering from dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder). The first half plays out like an unscripted comedy while the second half sees a sudden transformation into stylized action territory. It’s as if director Prabhudheva wanted to make two distinct movies with the same cast. When he couldn’t make up which genre to go with he put the two together to make an ambiguous mix-genre movie that’s too inconsistent to garner any appreciation.

If that sounds like it’s all over the place, it is. Action Jackson, the movie, tries to be too many things all at once. It’s drawing too many similarities with Pradhudheva’s previous films like Wanted, Rowdy Rathore and R… Rajkumar. The entire first half is like a series of gags picked up from various South Indian movies as well as Hindi comedies and stitched together. And just when you think you’re possibly watching a cheap rip-off of a Sajid Khan film, the film changes its entire perspective in the second half. It goes from being a brainless comedy to being a Kill Bill spin off with high-flying katana inspired action. It’s a 360 degree turn in treatment too. The mood swings from the gaudy and gawky pastel coloured tapori Mumbai theme to a slick, leather, swords and martial arts kind of Hollywood production. And suddenly Sonakshi’s character just disappears for the longest time. The portions with Manasvi Mamgai, Anand Raj, Kunal Roy Kapur (who plays the comedian and Devgn’s best friend), Yami Gautam and Ajay Devgn are exhilarating. They certainly have the right kind of irreverence. But then, the director’s and writers’ efforts to stitch together the two contrasting plotlines just messes things up.

It all boils down to Prabhudheva’s inability to make his mind up. On one hand he had a great concept for an action film. It was slick, edgy filled with equal part quirk and action. But it was a big risk because Indian audiences had never seen something like that before. Manasvi’s character of Marina for example is a certified megalomaniac who treats men like sexual objects. If only they’d explored that side of the story further. We’d have had our very own version of pulp fiction. But Prabhudheva chooses the much safer, been-there-done-that comedy approach. He employs loud, South-movie, potboiler humour, random item songs, dance numbers and tries to create an audience friendly masala entertainer. But the combination backfires.

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