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Animal - Movie Review

Hi. This is a review of the movie Animal.

A film that’s neither entertaining nor has anything to say. The cinematic equivalent of a teenager having a hormonal temper tantrum.

Ranbir Kapoor is Ranvijay, who, as you probably surmised from the trailer has everything money can buy, except his father’s love and attention. Never mind his poor mum enabling his bad behavior, all Vijay wants is to be able to spend his father Balbir’s birthdays with him, again mother, very much alive and standing around looking sad, is inconsequential. Denied this love, Vijay slowly turns into an “animal”, with uncontrollable instinct, acting upon every single intrusive thought in his man-brain. Also because Balbir is the richest or one of the richest men in India, nothing Vijay does, including straight-up mass murder, has any legal consequences. Law enforcement doesn’t exist in Balbir and Vijay’s world.

The film takes place in flashbacks, and I tried to figure out why. The first scene is a prosthetically aged Ranbir Kapoor in the year 2056, telling a group of men an inane story about a monkey in a jungle. Just like this scene, much of Animal’s screenplay presents sequence upon gory sequence, purely for the shock value they provide. Violence for violence’s sake, sexism for sexism’s sake, declarations of masculinity only because one can. “Sadly it’s a man’s world”, Vijay says to his wife in a scene, without a hint of awareness. You don’t have to tell us twice.

The entire film illustrates it being set in a man’s world, using as many bullets and murders as possible. It is not a lament, like Nikhil Nagesh Bhatt’s ultra-violent KILL that premiered at TIFF, where violence is portrayed as a way of showing the trappings of masculinity, of resorting to use your manhood as a tool when all else fails, the one thing that gives you’re an automatic advantage in the world, regardless of your social status. In KILL, Raghav Juyal and his men murder on a train, because it’s the only option they are left with, to gather wealth in a system that doesn’t work for them. In Animal, Vijay is violent because no one booked him for a psych evaluation as a teenager. In this slasher movie men protect the honor of their families as real men, using swords, axes, and guns, with enough references to penis and body hair underlining this declaration.

Anil Kapoor is Balbir, a businessman so preoccupied with his empire, that he seemingly doesn’t even retaliate or care upon realizing a teacher at school has physically assaulted his son. While the actor is, you know very good at his job, especially in the yell-y scenes where he tries to parent his enfant terrible. Aside from this though, the character is a ping pong ball bouncing around of a screenplay desperately trying to justify its protagonist’s rage with some semblance of a reason WHY it is translating as murderous. When Balbir is not yelling vocational platitudes like “I run a business across three different time zones”, he sits behind an office desk silently simmering, allowing his progeny to rain hell, clearing his conscience with the occasional “I don’t agree with your methods”.

As Ranbir Kapoor enters the film interrupting YET another wedding, with yet another embarrassing song performance, a sort of 4th wall breaks, reminding you how many times you’ve seen the actor do this before. Almost like reading our minds, then it goes “AHA! So you think you know Ranbir haan? Now let me show you what your wildest imagination could not have anticipated”. And that’s what Animal boils down to, intended to provoke “snowflakes” and opinionated critics of Vanga’s last outing, Kabir Singh, very carefully picking out commentary on that film, and giving it just a bit of a twist. So you were concerned at men applauding when Kabir slapped Preeti? Sure, Vijay will never slap his wife Geentanjali, played by Rashmika, and she will slap him, so when you bring up Vijay’s misogyny, these slaps can be invoked. Oh, you didn’t like how Kabir debased Preeti? Look how Geetanjali debases herself. It’s almost like Vijay fancies himself as a Napoleonic king. There is a scene in BOTH Ridley Scott’s Napoleon and Animal where this “conqueror” returns home to his nubile, attractive wife and makes her take her clothes off in front of the house help, presenting her body for him to admire and touch. While Ridley Scott’s Napoleon is seen through a comedic lens, as a pitiable fool who doesn’t realize all his heinous actions are leading him towards an embarrassing end, Vanga’s Vijay is heroic and tragic right till the end. Asking his audience to empathize with and love this sad, broken but strong man, who kills people because his father didn’t cut a birthday cake or two.

way to kill one man? I shall not and honestly CAN not get into all the misogyny, because anything a female film critic will have to say about this movie will be reduced to a feminist splitting hairs over a movie, there is enough in the length here to be used as a counter. “Oh, you don’t like that he asked Tripti Dimri to lick his shoe? But how about HER plans? You didn’t like how he treated his sisters haan? So a brother shouldn’t step in to protect his sisters?” These aren’t arguments that can be had, and frankly getting involved with them takes focus away from the larger discussion around the current climate of Hindi cinema that celebrates major movie stars and filmmakers coming together to propagate hot-tempered brutality as an acceptable, or perhaps only way of attained justice. Wickedness masquerading as goodness.

I wondered if the script and story here were arc-less and pointless for a reason. Stitched mostly episodically, Animal never crescendos, because its protagonist is almost always very consistently, flatly angry. When at school a digitally de-aged Ranbir Kapoor shoots an AK47-looking assault rifle and drives boys off the road in his car, the rage in his small frame is proportionate to that in his bulkier figure in the climactic shirtless fight with Bobby Deol. From Delhi to Scotland, the journey is only external, not internal. Ranbir Kapoor is angry in the first scene and angry in the last.

Animal isn’t written to present finesse in cinematic storytelling, character development, sub-plot, conflict, catharsis, or pathos. The film is a 3-and-a-half-hour-long bait for cultural commentators. It’s almost sad really. The craft of filmmaking is sacrificed for glamorous scenes where a group of masked men appears at a hotel to kill Vijay RIGHT as he is in another room doing an arms deal, which means harr tarah ka weapon is available. The seemingly Oldboy-inspired corridor ax fighting sequence is overlayed with dexterity over Bhupinder Babbal singing Arjan Vailly and it looks magnificent. Even though I wondered what the mask budget of the opposing team was, and why the footsoldiers kept their masks on as their ring leader, the most important guy who must conceal his identity immediately takes his off. Did they have trial fittings before being sent into action, 200 of them on their way to kill one man?

Animal doesn’t exist in a reality you and I know and can perceive, neither is it convincing as a purely fantastical, melodramatic Bollywood film where disbelief must be suspended. When Vijay, in another fit of rage, kills a prominent man and all his stooges, with about 100 eyewitnesses, in the middle of a conference orchestrating what can only be described as a massacre, it is barely referenced again, the writing uninterested in tying loose ends, or satisfactorily culminating sub-plots. So, all I’m taking from this is, that India mein ultra-rich can get away with not just murder, but wholesale slaughter.

And don’t come for me saying why I must invoke this as an “India” thing, the film invites you to look at its protagonist as a sort of ghar mein ghus ke maarega new age Indian man, something you’ve heard Hindi cinema espouse before. Background score is pointedly halted during a havan seen for Geetanjali to ask Vijay to drink cow urine, which he promptly does. During a fight sequence, a hybrid lawn-mower-esque bullet machine is emblazoned with Made In India, Upendra Limaye as a jumpy arms dealer Freddy proudly proclaims his weapons are an example of Atmanirbhar Bharat, yelling “salute the champion” after Vijay achieves his Vijay using said weapons.

On the contrary, the bad guy played by Bobby Deol is Abrar Haque, a Muslim with three wives. As he murders someone during his third wedding, right in the introduction scene, in the sequence after, he summons all three of his wives into his bedroom, proceeding to violently rip their clothes. Giving the men in the audience a quick chuckle.

In the bare-chested climatic sequence between Vijay and Abrar, the men decide to fight one on one. As their bodies collide, B Praak’s voice echoes “Papa mujhey aapka na hona maar dega”. If it weren’t so unintentionally hilarious, I would have been more impressed with the frankly genius casting of Bobby Deol as Ranbir Kapoor’s long-estranged cousin. “Identical twins” a man watching half-observes, and yeah, I buy it.

But despite the gore, heavily underlined machismo, and provocative sexism, Animal is simply desperately dull. One could appreciate Amit Roy’s love for Ranbir Kapoor’s face and the close-ups he shoots of him, the dexterity of Vanga’s match-cuts in the edit, and Harshwardhan Rameshwar’s precise background scoring, but at 201 minutes, all of it blurs into a cacophony of blasts and blasphemy.

Like I said, the treatment of women, mothers, wives, sisters, and girlfriends, is a bait the film wants us to rise to. Geetanjali forgives her husband’s atrocious disregard for her because he stood by her as she delivered his children. As she admonishes him for smoking in the middle of a church after he’s had heart surgery, he shoves his iPods in her ears where she can hear the two of them having sex for the first time, a recording he’s managed to retrieve from the black box of the plane this event occurred inside, immediately her anger fades, and she’s turned on…..?

Call it what you will, Animal is not dishonest, Vijay goes so far as to tell his son he is a movie director. And yet, despite seeing the filmmaker almost appear in his passionate but applesauce screenplay, fails to hold your attention beyond the mid-way mark. The film itself sort of deflates, as it runs out of space to add even more half-cooked mini-narratives. Characters have sudden changes of heart, tears are shed, and hugs are shared, little of which translates as things should in the third act, owing to your brain being numb from the assault of everything that has come before.

There will be as many reactions to reviews of the film, as there will TO the film. One can safely assume interviews will begin in a few days, arming fan armies and social media trolls with fresh vocabulary to use on X formerly known as Twitter. There will be more noise, on more platforms decrying opinion, calling critics woke feminists. Perhaps this might be the actual conversation one must have around cinema as it exists in 2023, the expectation to adhere to a manufactured status quo. Actors and filmmakers will appear at year-end round tables, politely saying everyone is entitled to their opinion as their social media armies will work overtime to verbally abuse dissenting opinions into oblivion. The film will make a tonne of money as nameless, faceless folks descend in droves in mentions and comments with threats in the most colorful language, an audience invigorated, activated.

One can take pride in their work. But look around and see, are they taking responsibility for it as well?