Crakk Movie review: A Rollercoaster of Absurdity and Action

Returning to the screen with a promise of ‘India’s first extreme sports action movie,’ Vidyut Jammwal leads the charge in “Crakk.” Brace yourself for a wild ride.

Director: Aditya Datt
Writers: Aditya Datt, Rehan Khan, Sarim Momin, Mohinder Pratab Singh
Cast: Vidyut Jammwal, Arjun Rampal, Nora Fatehi, Amy Jackson, Jamie Lever
Duration: 155 minutes
Available in: Theatres

A Vidyut Jammwal action flick is my guilty pleasure kind of bad cinema. Over time, I’ve oddly grown fond of this unique flavor of cinematic chaos. How do I describe it? It’s not insidiously bad or deceptively bad; it’s mostly juvenile bad, the kind that stems from not knowing better. These films are like that spirited kid at school sports day, constantly tripping but earning sympathetic pats instead of medals. “Crakk” fits right into that category. Touted as India’s inaugural extreme sports action extravaganza, “Crakk” (with a tagline that’s more of a challenge: “Jeethegaa…Toh Jiyegaa!” Translation: “If you win… you live!”) plays out like the lovechild of a Mountain Dew and Thums Up commercial, fostered by “Squid Game” (2021) and “Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar” (1992). If this sounds like a mouthful, just wait until you dive into the plot. It rhymes, much like something the film’s growling villain would utter.

Now, that’s not to discount Jammwal’s impressive prowess as an action star. His stunt work is undeniably top-notch – the physical dedication is no joke. The hiccup arrives when his characters attempt to converse, emote, and navigate through a storyline in between the adrenaline-pumping action sequences.

From Mumbai’s Streets to the Arena of “Maidaan”

In “Crakk,” he steps into the shoes of Sidhu, an adrenaline-fueled denizen of Mumbai’s slums, speaking in a distorted Mumbai lingo reminiscent of “Ram Jaane” (1995) more than “Gully Boy” (2019), while pulling off jaw-dropping stunts. The film kicks off with an impressively choreographed sequence featuring Sidhu engaging in parkour acrobatics on a speeding local train. As mentioned, the film can’t be entirely faulted for glorifying the reckless “who dares, wins” attitude; after all, it’s more naive than malicious. It means well; let it revel a bit. I’m starting to sound like an overprotective parent now. But I digress. Sidhu’s aspirations have nothing to do with conventional sports, as he explains to his former athlete father. Instead, he aims to qualify for the famed underground survival sports competition known as “Maidaan” (“field”). Uploading his videos to the Maidaan website, luck smiles on him as he gets summoned to Poland as one of the 32 international players for the 2024 edition. Just for context, ‘crakk’ is the street slang for ‘crazy,’ mirroring what regular folks think of Sidhu for his gravity-defying swagger.

As an extreme sports actioner, “Crakk” might have held its ground. Here’s a man striving to win a perilous contest that claimed his brother’s life four years prior – three stages, an Rs. 80-crore payday, and a potential showdown with Maidaan’s big boss, Dev (played by Arjun Rampal). Allegedly, it’s the most-watched event globally, with the wealthy placing bets on their favorites, while cheesy reaction shots stream in from all corners of the world. (Contestant fatalities are shrugged off; let’s just assume the dark web isn’t so clandestine anymore.) So what if the only camera we glimpse belongs to Alia, a social media influencer (Nora Fatehi) who falls for Sidhu? The initial phase of Maidaan resembles a budget rendition of a “Mad Max: Fury Road” set piece – the objective being to reach a flag on a speeding truck by leaping onto remote-controlled go-karts amidst a desert-like terrain. The second stage features snarling dogs, contestants on rollerblades, and ominous red flags (metaphors abound). The grand finale is a race strapped with explosives against Dev through caves and the bustling streets of Krakow. You know, the usual. Sidhu’s drive is crystal clear: closure for the loss of a beloved brother.

Arjun Rampal’s Grandiose Ambitions and Absurdity Galore

Yet “Crakk” isn’t content with Sidhu exclaiming “Oh teri!” or “Teri maa ka Saki Naka!” every other scene. It craves more. Or perhaps less. The sport, ironically, feels like the disposable aspect of the film. Because Dev isn’t your run-of-the-mill villain. Maidaan serves as a mere facade for him to peddle plutonium and nuclear bomb materials to affluent nations, all in a bid – let me get this straight – to purchase an unclaimed country “between Egypt and Africa” (last I checked, Egypt was part of Africa) and dominate the globe. Unfortunately for Dev, his father stands as a staunch purist of Maidaan’s core values, disapproving of Dev’s exploitation of the beloved bloodsport.

Enter a Polish-Indian intelligence agent (Amy Jackson) who tries to enlist Sidhu as a mole in her quest to unveil Dev’s malevolent empire. Predictably, she’s not very adept at her job, as Sidhu only picks a side once he suspects Dev’s involvement in his brother’s demise. Oh, and there’s a queer Brazilian contestant who pledges to look after Sidhu’s parents should he meet his end. What even is happening anymore?

In essence, “Crakk” is needlessly intricate, verbose, and its own worst enemy. The dubbing of Jammwal, Jackson, and Fatehi is so off-kilter that it seems they’re lip-syncing songs rather than delivering lines. It doesn’t help that Sidhu shares more chemistry with his brother’s ghost than with Alia. The segments leading up to the intermission – a skirmish with the police, the abrupt halt of Stage 2, and Sidhu’s switch from Dev’s contender to his foe – are disjointed. At one point, the crowd’s cheers for Sidhu barely waver after his rival meets a fiery end; they keep cheering, leaving us to wonder if we’ve suddenly been transported to ancient Rome. Rampal garners ample screen time, even when Dev is doing nothing but grinning, pontificating, or relishing the sound of his own voice. I appreciate his portrayal as these hammy, larger-than-life sinners (think “Dhaakad,” “Ra.One”), but there’s only so much Crak-ness one can endure.

Certain queries remain unanswered. The agents root for Sidhu, celebrating his victories even as live deaths are broadcast worldwide under their watch. Collateral damage, I suppose. I understand it’s an action flick set in Europe, but the storyline’s creative liberties

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