An Action Hero ably delivers on its one-liner – a movie star accidentally kills a man and is hunted by the man’s older brother – but leaves us wanting more. The contest between Maanav, for whom a shoot in Haryana turns into a personal hell, and Bhoora, the person creating the inferno, is poised to become bigger and richer but instead becomes something stranger.

Might the late-reel introduction of a surprise element be taken as a sign of inventiveness or despair? First-time director Anirudh Iyer’s movie, based on his story and a screenplay by Neeraj Yadav, demands the suspension of disbelief, starting with the idea that Ayushmann Khurrana is a buff-bod and Jaideep Ahlawat an all-bite-little-bark villain.

Maanav (Khurrana) is the kind of egoistic celebrity who measures his fame by the amount of hours he makes people wait for an audience. One incensed soul confronts Maanav, only to die in the bargain.

Bhoora (Ahlawat) is out of the door for vengeance in as much time as it takes the camera to turn 360 degrees (the fleet cinematography is by Kaushal Shah). Bhoora tracks Maanav to London and shows just how scary he can be.

The slickly narrated and impressively performed film is always on the move and continues to propel forward even when it momentarily runs out of fuel. The wait for reinforcements – the big twist delivered by Gautam Joglekar’s character – comes after a cool cameo by Neeraj Madhav and further proof that despite having Scotland Yard and some of the most sophisticated surveillance systems in the world, the British police force can barely get its act together.

Back home, a hysterical media dissects Maanav’s travails. Although an overly familiar device, the deployment of news anchors, which includes a hilarious dead ringer for Arnab Goswami and comedian Garima Jha spouting nonsense with a straight face, provides the chuckles between the fistfights.

An Action Hero (2022).

The 132-minute An Action Hero careens out of control after a superbly taut beginning and begins to resembles the anything-goes movies that have earned Bollywood a bad name. An allegory about post-truth and fake news in present-day India emerges on the horizon, which simultaneously weakens the man-on-the-run thriller and gives the film higher purpose.

Sly asides on showbiz, droll comedy, Neeraj Yadav’s cutting dialogue and some nifty character sketches keep the show on the road. The lack of a love interest for either of the men is an added bonus (although the remix of Nazia Hassan’s Aap Jaisa Koi, featuring Malaika Arora, strains the ears).

Jitendra Hooda, sadly not around for long enough, is a bumbling Haryana police officer who has the misfortune of giving Bhoora the bad news about his brother. Harsh Chhaya plays Maanav’s long-suffering business manager. Akshay Kumar turns up as a parody of himself, and a very good one too.

Jaideep Ahlawat, a shoo-in as Bhoora, retains the bite in his performance even when his character gets defanged. Ahlawat’s facial expression as Maanav puts on yet another display of caddishness is further evidence of the actor’s impressive discipline.

While Maanav’s epilated chest and sculpted abs are part of Ayushmann Khurrana’s recent attempts at an image change, Maanav’s shallowness and anxiety are always more convincing than his action moves. Khurrana’s skill at playing a man in a tight spot is most useful in a film that frequently paints itself into corners.