Two brothers, torn apart by family wreckage, find themselves pitted against each other in a murderous Mixed Martial Arts tournament, provocatively titled Right to Fight. Neither has been able to reconcile with the demons of their past, and they hope to find some outlet to their simmering rage in the death blows they deal each other inside the ring. From the makers of the blockbuster and high-on-drama Agneepath, comes a pugilist melodrama this time, the official remake of Gavin O' Connor's 2011 film Warrior. As the deadly sparring contest kicks off, the question is not so much as who'll deliver the winning blow, as much as it's who'll finally get overpowered by the throes of brotherly love.
Karan Malhotra's Brothers, produced by Karan Johar, takes very slight detours from the original film. So for those who have seen Warrior, this would be an exact replica in Hindi and comparisons, of course, are inevitable but let's not go there. Akshay Kumar's David Fernandes plays elder brother to Sidharth Malhotra's Monty. A grizzly, wrinkled and growling Jackie Shroff is their father Garston, an erstwhile street-fighter, now torn between his two warring sons. Shefali Shah has a dramatic cameo as the mother who is made to look perennially teary eyed. The director seems to have clearly demarcated duties for the men and women in his film. The women, Shefali Shah and Jacqueline Fernandez, are the voice of reason, that is muted. So crying is the only job they seem to be entrusted with. While the men in the family let their muscles do the talking.
The first half of Brothers largely establishes the family wreck, the emotional turmoil between all the four members of the family. After estranging himself from his father and brother, David goes on to become a respectable Physics teacher in a school. But his street-fighter past is hard to wish away. And as his six-year-old daughter's medical bills render him penniless, he begins to moonlight in the ring because a single fight night pays more than three months' salary. His wife Jenny (Jacqueline) works two jobs but still they find it hard stay afloat. The way David sees it, the only way out of his mess is to enter a 9-crore, winner-takes-it all international MMA tournament happening in the city. His wife doesn't agree but that does not stop him. Meanwhile, his little brother Monty has become an Internet sensation after someone posted one of his fight videos on YouTube and his angst, unlike David's, seems half-hearted and confused.
As much as Brothers, on some level, tries to explore the locked up angst of its lead protagonists, it ends up becoming only about the physical outpouring of latent fury. The action in this film has crushed everything else Bollywood has seen in the genre so far. This is as raw and physical as it gets, no safety harnesses or body doubles. The second half is a blur of swift rush of crushing blows, with the audible cracks of tendons snapping and bones crushing as Akshay and Sidharth take turns to pummel their opponents into unconsciousness until they are the last two men standing. The pound fest goes on for what seems like an eternity, as audience, one feels they are taking the beating inside the cage. So potent is the action, it will make you cringe or clap, subject to your loyalties to the genre.
In his lead actors, director Karan had two very disciplined and hard working men, one an action veteran, the other just getting his feet wet. Sidharth still seems caught in his groaning and roaring Ek Villain mould, only more beefed up, with imposing neck muscles. He has few lines to mouth and mumbles through them all while darting terrifying looks. Even his facial fuzz doesn't manage to make him look as menacing as the story requires him to be. But it's impressive how, in the fight sequences, he holds his own in the ring against action god Akshay Kumar. Be it in terms of technique, power or finesse, Sidharth puts up a good fight. Akshay's character is more nuanced and he plays David with earnestness. Jackie has a few over emotional sequences that make good use of his puffy eyed histrionics. Jacqueline sheds a lot of tears, looks like a dream even without makeup and displays a larger emotional range than all her previous films put together. In the supporting cast, Ashutosh Rana is impactful as a fighter-agent.
The heightened melodrama in Brothers doesn't help its overtly simplistic plot. And if you didn't know what to feel about certain things-fall-apart kind of sequences (and there are many of those), then take a hint from the weepy track playing in the background. Emotionally the film is as feeble as physically it's robust. Even as the brothers fight their demons inside the ring, the emotional turmoil seems only skin deep. It does not go beyond bruised male bodies in sweaty motion....