Direction: Nishikant Kamat
Actors: John Abraham, Nishikant Kamat, Shruti Haasan, Diya Chalwad
It’s the climax of Rocky Handsome. Our hero has already decimated a dozen men. Bones have snapped. Blood has spilled. Bodies lie everywhere. Now the villain’s bodyguard — Atilla, I think his name is — has got a gun pointed at Rocky. All he has to do is shoot. But no; the man dramatically throws away the gun and opts for a knife fight. The two then embark on this beautifully choreographed, bloody dance in which they slice at each other. I’m sure it’s not a spoiler to tell you that things don’t go as Atilla had planned.
This set-piece action sequence feels like the most imaginatively crafted highlight of Rocky Handsome. The film is an almost frame-by-frame remake of the 2010 Korean blockbuster, The Man from Nowhere. Director Nishikant Kamat faithfully reproduces the story of a neglected seven-year-old girl who unwittingly gets embroiled with dangerous men who deal in drugs and human organs. Luckily, Nayomi has befriended her silent, never-smiling neighbour, also known as Rocky Handsome. Rocky may not be sociable but he’s essentially a oneman killing machine. He’s so fast that you can almost see a trace of admiration on his opponents’ faces before they crumble and die. Even when he is shot or stabbed, Rocky doesn’t flinch. He just does a DIY operation and removes the bullet himself.
Who better to play this stoic superman than John Abraham? The actor combines a single grim expression with a granite body. Not for a minute did I think that he couldn’t do the things he was doing. The trouble is that what he’s doing isn’t very interesting — especially if you’ve seen the original film. The Man from Nowhere combined slickness with gruesome violence and grace. It was sentimental but not over-the-top. Kamat transports the plot to Goa and dials up the drama a few notches. So we get a musical interlude that shows us Rocky in happier times with his pouting, pregnant, wife played by Shruti Haasan.
Way too much time and effort is spent showcasing the leading man — John’s body is a no-carb miracle and Kamat fetishises it. It’s telling that in the original film, the hero’s nickname was simply Pawnshop Ghost. Here, even the nickname Rocky Handsome is designed to flatter. DOP Shanker Raman creates a moody, gray portrait of Goa but the textures don’t make an impact because Kamat allows the narrative to become cartoonish. The villains are especially silly. Kamat plays the main guy himself. But the worse offender is Ted Maurya, who hams demonically. Thankfully, Diya Chalwad, who plays Nayomi, is a fine actor, but the character is too precocious to be endearing.
All of which left me pondering nail polish. Nayomi is a lover of nail art. Early in the film she paints Rocky’s nail. Through the film, Rocky kills at least two dozen men. Despite the serious wear and tear, that nail polish stays in place until the end. The world needs long-lasting manicures like that.