Sunday, March 22, 2015

In short: Bloodstone (1988)

Absurdly annoying US couple Sandy (Brett Stimely) and Stephanie (Anna Nicholas) McVey are going on their honeymoon in India. A train acquaintance (Jack Kehler) from their trip to Bangalore drops a humungous stolen ruby off in Stephanie’s luggage, because quite a few people are after the thing. In particular, there are the henchpeople – among them India’s favourite henchman Bob Christo himself! – of one Van Hoeven (Christopher Neame) to mention, as well as obnoxious comic relief cop Inspector Ramesh (Charlie Brill). Soon, Bob Christo and his buddies kidnap Stephanie to exchange her against the ruby. Ironically, the McVeys never actually touched the damned thing, and it has quickly landed in the hands of four-fisted (because two-fisted just wouldn’t be enough fists) taxi driver and outlaw Shyam Sabu (Superstar Rajnikanth). Shyam has a bit of honour as well as plans of his own, so he helps Sandy in his attempts to free Stephanie.

Or really, does most of the work while the film pretends anybody watching actually gives a crap about Brett Stimely (whoever he is). Not that many members of the suspected US audience of this US-led US/Indian co-production would probably have known about the awesome powers of Telugu’s finest Rajnikanth, but it’s pretty impossible to watch this movie and not come away with the idea that Rajnikanth is the only one (well, okay, there’s also Bob Christo) on screen with actual charisma, screen presence and talent. His reduction to a slightly higher class of sidekick at the side of boring non-talent pretty much sums up what’s wrong with the film: the US side of the production sucks, and clearly has little idea what to do with its Indian partners.

Consequently, Rajnikanth has to tone down his usual ultra-manly shouting, finger-pointing and his superheroics so that a boring sop doesn’t look too bad next to him, the action sequences never dare to go even the least bit over the top (though here – again – there’s also the problem only Rajnikanth and the Indian bit players actually know how to act in an action scene, over the top or not), and whenever the film threatens to become actually entertaining and starts to take on the speed of a good adventure movie, it very quickly stops dead for some “comedy” shenanigans by an American in brown face playing a racist stereotype. And don’t ask me why you’d even cast an American in Ramesh’s role when you have access to all the horrifying film comedians of India. In a turn of events I’d never have expected, Brill’s performance isn’t just offensive, annoying, and practically killing the movie dead, it also makes me think wistfully of Johnnie Walker and his cohorts.

So unfortunately, Bloodstone doesn’t provide at all what one might hope for, and apart from it suggesting a view of one of Rajnikanth’s telugu films or three, there’s nothing at all to recommend Dwight H. Little’s movie.

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