RRR is the best action movie since Mad Max: Fury Road. This Indian import, directed by S.S. Rajamouli, runs 185 minutes, yet doesn't drag for a second. I've never had a 3-hour movie fly by so fast. And really, that length is part of the appeal. Could the story be told in 90 minutes? Yes, but the longer running time is packed with goodness, and it makes you feel like you've been on a journey right alongside the main characters. With its overall sense of grandiosity, RRR is a staggering achievement in filmmaking.
A shocking act kicks off the story, which is set in 1920. Catherine Buxton (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade's Alison Doody) convinces her husband, British Governor Scott Buxton (Ray Stevenson), to “buy” a little Indian girl from her tribe. When the girl's panicked mother tries to stop them, she is ruthlessly beaten. The tribe responds by sending their protector, Komaram Bheem (N.T. Rama Rao, Jr.), to retrieve her. We know he's tough because he successfully faces down a wolf and a tiger during his introductory scene.
Governor Scott gets wind that someone is after him, so he and Catherine offer a promotion to any police officer who can identify and catch Bheem. The man who volunteers is Rama Raju (Ram Charan), an insanely lethal fighter who eventually reveals a personal reason for his desire to get ahead. The two men have a chance encounter when both spot a young boy in danger and join forces to rescue him. A friendship develops, although Bheem has no clue Raju is hunting him down, and Raju doesn't realize Bheem is the man he's seeking.
RRR, whose title stands for “Rise, Roar, Revolt,” is packed with magnificently outrageous action scenes, all of which are staged with great creativity. When we first meet Raju, for example, he ventures into an angry crowd to haul in one specific man. The mob pounces on the officer, leaving him buried underneath dozens of people. Rajamouli puts his camera inside that pile-on, showing us how Raju fights his way out. (I have no clue how this shot was accomplished.) Later on, Bheem unleashes a group of wild, predatory animals upon a gathering the Buxtons are holding. Those creatures run around creating havoc while the humans fight. The movie cheerfully ignores the laws of physics and gravity, devising action sequences so over-the-top that you can't even see the top anymore. Each is more insane than the last.
Like many “Tollywood” films, RRR brings in elements from other genres. A nice flirtation between Bheem and Governor Scott's kindly niece Jenny (Olivia Morris) works its way into the story for romantic flavor. Moments of humor are here, too, along with three musical numbers. The best of them, featuring Bheem and Raju doing a spirited song-and-dance routine, is one of the most enthralling of its type I've ever seen. To add depth to the plot, a theme of racism comes into play, with several of the white British characters treating the Indian characters as lesser because of the color of their skin.
If that sounds like a lot to pack into one movie, it is. But again, the long running time allows for it. Overkill is a fundamental part of RRR's conception. On a similar note, Rajamouli intentionally packs more information into the frame than is necessary. He shoots in wide shots, sometimes filled with hundreds of extras, that allow you to take in tons of detail. These factors provide an epic feel. The film's greatest pleasure is its excess – the high drama of how the Bheem/Raja scenario unfolds, the inclusion of so many varied components, the embrace of preposterous action. Bombarding the audience with awesomeness is the point. Charismatic performances from Rao and Charan tie the package together.
Best of all, RRR is joyous. Even in its darkest or most violent moments, the movie palpably enjoys giving viewers as much bang for their buck as possible. It works overtime to entertain and delivers a 3-hour jolt of euphoria.
out of four
RRR is unrated, but contains violence and gore. The running time is 3 hours and 5 minutes.