Rating: 3 out of 5.

Festivals, fireworks, free food, dancing, drunken brawls, fighting, kicking, bleeding and some more fighting. Like its title, the 2023 Malayalam movie “RDX” starts with explosives, but the pyrotechnics kinds for a festival. The opening scene will remind small town kids of their own regional celebrations, with streets decked with lights, hawkers selling shiny wares, local bands belting live music and people just having a good time. And a bunch of drunk people just waiting to ruin it all.

Directed by Nahas Hidayath, who co-wrote the script with Shabas Rasheed & Adarsh Sukumaran, “RDX” follows brothers Robert, Dony and their best-friend Xavier, who take on a violent gang of goons, after they brutally attack Robert’s wife, child and parents. The police think the attack was in retaliation to a fight during their town’s festival, where Robert hit a few drunk men for creating a scene and heckling his father. But a series of flashbacks reveal the attackers had an old beef to settle with Robert (Shane Nigam), Dony (Antony Varghese) and Xavier (Neeraj Madhav). A subplot involving Robert falling in love with a charming college girl named Mini (Mahima Nambiar) adds a cute dash of romance to the action flick.

What makes the trio ‘RDX: Robert Dony Xavier’ special is the fact that they are all well-trained in karate, so the film is packed with well-choreographed fight sequences. While Robert and Dony fight with their bare hands, Xavier delivers some of the coolest moves as he wields nunchuks to beat his opponents to a pulp. Since the story is set in the late 90s and early 2000s, the cinematography is colorfully retro, featuring men in loud striped shirts and women in floral designs with puffed sleeves. Even the music has a delightful 90s tone, although the background scores for the gritty fight scenes have a more modern rock touch to them. The romantic track titled ‘Neela Nilave,’ composed by Sam C.S. and sung by Kapil Kapilan, is a nostalgic blend of flute, sitar, and guitar.

RDX: Robert Dony Xavier’ has a solid first half, with the writers building intrigue about what led to the violent attack on the protagonist’s family. Among the trio, Antony Varghese is first introduced on screen as the family man Dony, who gets a little drunk at his town’s festival and rushes to defend his father from a pack of rowdies. Shane Nigam’s Robert enters the movie almost 30 minutes in but gets a stylish intro sequence as a bartender working at a pub. The friendship and brotherhood portrayed in the film are its strongest suits, along with all the physical fracas between the protagonists and villains. There’s a fantastic face-off between Robert and a random guy onboard a boat in the second half. While Shane Nigam’s moves did appear a little raw, he delivers most of his punches and kicks convincingly. His character deals the first few blows while still suavely sitting in his seat, making the scene scream “casual-cool”.

‘RDX: Robert Dony Xavier’ falls short in delivering a memorable antagonist, and none of the bad guys are able to make a lasting impression on the viewers.The revelation of why an entire gang of goons is thirsting for the trio’s blood wasn’t compelling enough either. Towards the end, the proceedings get absurdly exaggerated. Even action icon Rajinikanth in ‘Jailer’ didn’t take on as many armed men as Robert and Dony do in this film. The two brothers recklessly drive into ‘enemy territory’ and face an onslaught from an entire colony. The 2 versus 200 fight (okay, not 200, but at least 50 for sure) was too far-fetched to be enjoyable.

Regardless of the plot flaws and forgettable antagonists, ‘RDX: Robert Dony Xavier’ makes for an entertaining action film. Shane Nigam, Antony Varghese, and Neeraj Madhav pull off their action hero roles with flair, and Shane Nigam’s endearing chemistry with the bubbly Mahima Nambiar in their brief onscreen romance was nostalgic goodness. If you enjoyed movies like small-town action movies like “Minnal Murali”, this would make a good pick to watch in your free time too.

Rating: 6 on 10. You can stream the film on Netflix.

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