Polite Society is a British kung-fu film directed by Nida Manzoor. It featured a somewhat heavy marketing cycle aided by the fact that it came out in a weekend with virtually no competition. Manzoor herself said that she was inspired by Jackie Chan films and Edgar Wright- and those two influences are very present. Looking at the trailers I could see that those influences were there. But the fact of the matter is that it’s a very unique film, and it’s not just down to the fact that the cast is largely made up of British actors of South Asian descent, but it goes in quite a few different directions.
The plot is pretty basic. It is about two sisters, Ria (Priya Kansara) and Lena (Ritu Arya), both of whom are in slumps in their careers, Lena having ducked out of art college and Ria struggling to get a work experience placement with her favourite stuntwoman. Lena then ends up being in an arranged marriage with a man who seems perfect on the surface, but Ria becomes concerned that she is throwing her life away, especially considering how controlling the man’s mother, Raheela (Nimra Bucha), is and vows to stop the wedding by hook or by crook. That’s a basic premise, but man, this film goes places! It is a strange movie but in a good way.
If you like good kung-fu movies, you’ll like this one. It reminded me of Scott Pilgrim vs The World since they are shot similarly, but I would say that the cinematography of Polite Society is a lot more grounded in the real world since it’s not trying to replicate anime.
One of the things that made the film really work is the cast. The characters are very well written and everyone is allowed to show their personality. There are some standout performances amongst the cast, particularly with Priya Kansara who can really pull off her leading role. She is a confident yet kind of nerdy girl who really doesn’t care what people think about her, and she plays this well.
The dialogue in this film was really well thought out – it’s a bit over the top at times, but as a whole, it works out quite well and does meet the surrealist nature of the storyline. Another standout for me was Nimra Bucha who knows exactly what film she is in and hams it up brilliantly. I really thought that she gave an excellent performance, and even though her character is really weird, they do a good job fleshing her out.
Admittedly, if there is a weakness, it’s in the plot twist that is revealed later on in the film. It’s the weirdest part of the movie (believe me, you won’t see this one coming), it actually doesn’t make a lot of sense… But you don’t really care, because it leads to a really good climax!
Whoever did the cinematography for this film is brilliant. It’s a real highlight, and it helps to sell the over-the-top nature that the film puts out, particularly in fight scenes.
Other than the twist not really working, there are really not many weaknesses in the film. Certain parts will creep out the audience, and rightfully so, but that was definitely the intention. By the end of it, you’ll agree that the film stands out, there aren’t many films like this that exist and I think unless it does start building up some traction it is destined for obscurity. If you like good actions, the choreography of the fight scenes is fantastic, though I did find it somewhat bizarre that everyone in this world has martial arts skills – but then again, I suspend my disbelief for way more in other films.
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