There's a reason why audiences keep coming to boxing movies in droves, despite the genre's generally predictable narratives, stock characters and melodramatic sequences. With few exceptions, boxing movies seem to exist for no higher purpose than to rehash the same old underdog success story that consistently leaves viewers uplifted and satisfied.
But the Bollywood sports drama "Mary Kom" exists for an additional reason: To delineate the life of the famous female boxing champion the film is named after. Mary Kom holds enough world boxing championship titles and influence in the sport to merit a keen cinematic look at her career's progression. However, the film botches that opportunity, succumbing instead to the common pitfalls of its genre, and topping it off with an inelegant style of execution.
Screenwriter Saiwyn Quadras tries to add nuance to the film's opening scene by setting it in media res, as Kom goes into labor. That section of the narrative goes almost nowhere thematically, however, and we transition to Kom's modest upbringing and early forays into fighting. From there, the film becomes a textbook hero's journey. In order to earn prominence within the international boxing circuit, Kom must overcome her father's staunch restrictions and expectations. After fulfilling this goal, Kom gives birth to two children and must persevere through public doubt to find her way back to the ring.
Chopra looks almost nothing like the real-life Kom, but at least she finds a way to play the part persuasively. Her performance showcases Kom's intensity and commitment to her sport. Unfortunately, "Mary Kom" itself proves far less convincing. The film's efforts to orchestrate tension and pull at the audience members' heartstrings come off as far more contrived than genuine; we see right through the ubiquitous rousing musical cues. "Mary Kom" tries to engineer a sense of profundity rather than build suspense authentically.
More unreasonable, however, is the film's excessive demand for a suspension of disbelief on the part of the viewer. A certain level of hyperbole is to be expected in this kind of movie, but "Mary Kom" crosses a line when the climactic fight scene is intercut with the heart surgery of one of Kom's children. It's a choice that's chronologically inaccurate, illogical and borderline insensitive.
To his credit, director Omung Kumar imbues the fighting sequences with a good degree of energy and electricity. However, those sequences and Chopra's strong performance prove insufficient in transcending the overarching effort's deficiencies. Mary Kom's life didn't need to be exaggerated to retain its potency on the silver screen. To its detriment, this biopic lacks faith in the intelligence of its audience.
It's worth noting that "Mary Kom" is in Hindi with clumsily arranged English subtitles. The myriad typos do nothing to distract from the film's larger flaws.
Unrated. Two hours, 2 minutes.