You can actually call NTR cool now.
One of the most dramatic overhauls of Tollywood appears complete, and how. A bulky young man with a bass-less voice who seemed permanently destined for the masses of interior Andhra now appears like he'll soon be a trendy urban youth pinup a la Mahesh and Allu Arjun, and perhaps (gasp) even adorn the walls of teenaged girls' rooms. Indeed, don't be surprised if you see him in a cola commercial sometime soon. From Simhadri to style icon, that's some transformation.
Kantri is a new-NTR special, and his screen presence is formidable, especially given an almost diminutive frame now. He looks good, he dresses pretty well for Tollywood standards, and, of course, he can act, and between these three, there's a magnetic effect whenever he's on screen. He plays Kranti, an orphan who's grown up and is living in an orphanage, and joins the mafia gang of Pothuraju (Prakash Raj) and Seshu (Ashish Vidyarthi).
He quickly makes an impression there with his heroics with rival gangs, but when Seshu once refuses to give him money for a surgery for one of his orphanage's inmates, he quits and starts a gang of his own, and takes a contract to eliminate Pothuraju. And just as he is about to kill the latter, it then turns out that Pothuraju is the father who left him and his mother when he was a kid.
Kantri is a self-professed violent movie - the censor certificate shows just how violent, with details of the dozen or so scenes of violence that have been cut. Including 40% of the climax. That's right, 40% - and what you see is still obscene butchery, so imagine what must have been there originally. By all accounts, us and the Tamilians are the only bunch left in this country (and perhaps in the world) that still enjoy such sordid gore, and it doesn't look like it will change anytime soon.
NTR is completely in his element, with the trademark irreverent smirk showing supreme confidence. However, many times when NTR does a character in a movie, it somehow seems to appear like a sequence of (mostly well-enacted) scenes rather than a character coming to life. There's something going wrong somewhere, and it's perhaps that it's all a little too loud. Which perhaps is the result of a focus on giving him scenes to show off dialogue delivery skills rather than developing a character with many nuances.
Indeed, maybe NTR should start doing a different genre of movies â€" like say romances â€" where there is much more subtlety required, and many times a lot has to be said without opening the mouth. His next mass movie after that then is bound to bring a character to life much better.
Expectedly for a superhero movie, the woman has very little to do. Hansika plays Varalakshmi (which incidentally is the kind of name you're quite likely to find in NTR movies that are unabashedly uncosmopolitan), a girl built on an innovative concept â€" all her good luck gets transferred to someone if she kisses him, and she has to kiss him again to get it back. There could've been more there, but she's merely a prop in a movie that's all about testestorone.
The songs are good, and NTR dances up a storm as usual. The first half of the film is pretty gripping, and as is the Tollywood norm, the movie cannot stay as interesting in the second. But that's only relative, and NTR's looks and star power add a lot of charisma to a movie which already has the prescribed dose of violence in Tollywood. If that's what floats your boat, this one is completely for you.