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Animal review – Ranbir Kapoor plays one of the vilest protagonists in cinema history

Already topping the box office in India, Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s bombastic action film is high on shock tactics and low on substance. His first two features, the Telugu-language Arjun Reddy (2017) and its Hindi remake Kabir Singh (2019) were both megahits – and also attracted criticism for making heroes out of misogynistic, violent men. Far from stepping back from this, Animal sinks even further into regressive depths, resulting in one of the vilest protagonists to have graced the big screen.

Vijay, played by Hindi cinema royalty Ranbir Kapoor, is the only son of a wealthy family. He grows up in the shadow of his father Balbir Singh (Anil Kapoor), whose attention is wrapped up in his steel company. Zigzagging between different timelines spanning Vijay’s childhood to his autumnal years, Animal charts how his cravings for love and validation leads to a cycle of bloodshed with his inner turmoil basically a pretext for an onslaught of increasingly gory shootout sequences. At one point, Vijay quite literally murders hundreds of ruffians, all in the name of protecting his father. The swaggering, gratuitous violence aims to disturb, yet the execution of the action scenes is entirely forgettable and derivative, a poor man’s version of The Godfather or Scarface.

Furthermore, Vijay’s Andrew-Tate-esque one-liners about alpha males and women’s submission – seemingly designed to circulate as viral clips – leave a similarly bad taste. Despite its obvious desire to push buttons, Animal doesn’t have the guts to actually own its transgressions: the film, for example, chooses a swastika as the logo of Balbir’s company, but Vijay explains that theirs is not the tilted swastika used by the Nazis. This cloying pretence of self-awareness only makes the flirtation with right-wing iconography all the more unpleasant.

• Animal is in cinemas now.