Kumar plays David, a teacher trying to support his family, pay off loans and find funds for his ailing daughter’s medical treatment. Sidharth Malhotra is Monty, his younger half-brother who lives with their aging and troubled father, an infamous retired street fighter. David bears a deep anger towards both his father and brother. Monty is following in his father’s footsteps – partial to the bottle and a rising star in the underground cage-fighting scene.
Things come to a head when the brothers enter a high-profile mixed martial arts contest, unimaginatively called R2F – Right to Fight. The first half of the film sets up the family drama, establishing why the family fell apart. The highlight of the pre-interval section is a rigorous (a very well shot, executed and edited) training schedule.
Not surprisingly, this leads up to the big contest between Monty and David ‒ brother vs. brother ‒ as the father who failed them both looks on helplessly. The climax is textbook Bollywood, which is what makes Warrior a smart choice for a remake. Yet as Akshay Kumar puts Sidharth Malhotra in a do-or-die choke, you find yourself stifling a smirk rather than cheering the inevitable sibling reconciliation.
Kumar is perfectly cast in a part that fits his age and capitalizes on his strengths as an action star. Shefali Shah plays Maria and Jacqueline Fernandez is Jenny, supportive wives with bleeding hearts of gold who weep at will. Sidharth Malhotra barely has any lines nor the air of confrontation around him that might make you feel for his character. Barring a hammy flashback scene, Jackie Shroff is in fine form getting the accent, body language and pathos just right. The rest of the cast stand incongruously with the controlled pitch of the lead cast: David’s trainer (Ashutosh Rana, the outlandish event promoter (Kiran Kumar) and the two commentators (Raj Zutshi, Kavi Shastri) who sound like they should be in a stand-up comedy show.
The question that often springs to mind with remakes is why the producers choose to take a solid story and retard it with Bollywood tropes? In Karan Malhotra’s case, in a script adapted by Ekta Pathak, songs puncture the narrative and in-your-face melodrama dilutes the drama. This story of a fractured family is high on manipulative cinematic tools but fails to make an emotional connection. What stays with you are the no-holds-barred action sequences and the hummable theme tune.