‘Sooryavanshi’ Review: Cops on a Crusade

Over the last decade, the Bollywood director Rohit Shetty has built a flamboyant Cop Cinematic Universe with crowd pleasers — “Singham,” “Singham Returns,” and “Simmba” — about righteous policemen with anger issues and physics-defying stunt capabilities. Shetty’s latest installment tries to up the ante (a fool’s errand, given how over-the-top each of the prior movies already is) by smushing them all together: The movie’s titular Anti-Terrorism Squad officer, played by the action veteran Akshay Kumar, is joined by the supercops of the previous films (Ajay Devgn and Ranveer Singh) for a bullets-and-brawn extravaganza.

But movies are not math, and three is not always better than one. “Sooryavanshi” is both overstuffed and paper-thin. Its haywire maximalism — including a relentless, deafening soundtrack and cuts so rapid and inconsistent as to make you dizzy — ornaments a patchy bomb-scare plot whose heroes and villains are both numbskulls, making unconvincing gaffes to keep the narrative moving.

Even more egregious is the film’s uncritical jingoism. Shetty’s crusading state warriors, whose violence and vigilante tactics are played for laughs and hoots, have always seemed a bit tone-deaf, but “Sooryavanshi” veers into apologism: The film is rife with gleeful scenes of police brutality and pernicious stereotypes about Muslims. Whenever Sooryavanshi is confronted about Islamophobia (an increasingly urgent issue in India), he starts singing the praises of the single Muslim cop on his force as if to remind everyone what a “good Muslim” looks like.

“Sooryavanshi” is weighed down by such endless, didactic soapboxing, while the rest of this erratic film devotes itself to juvenile jokes (Sooryavanshi referring to his wife, Ria, as “Hernia” and “Malaria”) and sultry songs that offer the film’s female lead, Katrina Kaif, her only meaningful screen time.

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