POLITE SOCIETY – A Review by Cynthia Flores
This film is the kick-ass feature film debut of Nida Manzoor. As well as the first leading role in a feature for its star, Priya Kansara, who has a killer voice and can dance as well as she fights. Moreover, this film is blessed with the well-known talents of Ritu Arya from the hit Netflix series The Umbrella Academy. And the always imposing actress with the best eyebrows ever, Nimra Bucha, from the Marvel Cinematic Universe tv show Ms. Marvel.
Polite Society is set in modern-day London and follows the life and times of Ria Khan (Priya Kansara), AKA “The Fury,” a nerdy British-Pakistani teenage schoolgirl and martial artist-in-training. Much to her parents, Fatima (Shobu Kapoor) and Raff (Jeff Mirza), dismay she dreams of becoming a world-renowned stuntwoman like her hero Eunice Huthart (Eunice Huthart). No matter how much everyone at school says, she would make a great doctor.
At home, Ria is at a loss as she watches her cooler big sister Lena (Ritu Arya) spiral into depression after giving up on her dream of becoming an artist. So, she dropped out of art school and moved back home to try and figure out her next move. All the while helping Ria record her stunt woman videos.
Ria’s family is invited to a big social event at the home of Raheela (Nimra Bucha). She and her precious only son, Salim Shah (Akshay Khanna), are wealthier and higher up on the social ladder than the Khan family. So, everyone is surprised when he chooses Lena at the party to pursue.
Ria and Lena, who were once inseparable, start to drift apart as Salim Shah spends more and more time with Lena. This leads to some over-the-top fight scenes between the two sisters. Ria doesn’t trust the slick too good to be true Salim Shah or his over-indulging mother. While Ria and her best friends Alba (Ella Bruccoleri) and Clara (Seraphina Beh) try to run interference between the two love birds, they accidentally uncover a truly sinister plot behind the fast engagement between Lena and Salim.
Ria is now on a quest. She must save her sister from the shackles of marriage to an evil dude and the mother-in-law from hell. Then, with the help of her friends, they will attempt to pull off the most ambitious wedding heist ever tried by teenage girls. All in the name of freedom and sisterhood.
Polite Society is a mash-up of sisterly love, family disappointment, and bold and bloody martial arts action. Manzoor said she wrote the script over ten years ago in her 20s. She worked in British television and looked for the perfect partners to bring the film to action-packed life on the big screen. She is quoted as saying:
“It’s been a long road, but I have now been able to make the feature film of my dreams.” She also said, “My favorite thing about making film and television is the opportunity to bring marginalized communities into mainstream genres – action, sci-fi, and comedy. Occupying areas of storytelling, we are so often invisible in. I love writing comedy. It’s my go-to form of expression. When I put pen to paper, it’s my most natural form of storytelling. I feel comedy is the most disarming of all the genres. If done well, it can make us warm to characters from different backgrounds deeply and immediately.”
Manzoor’s comedic eye and her over-the-top use of martial arts immediately reminded me of one of my favorite action films of all time, 2004’s Kung Fu Hustle. Of course, that was an R-rated film, so the violence was much more aggressive than in Polite Society. But the old-time stylized score mixed with the often cartoon-like fight scenes of that classic film was definitely nodded to in Polite Society by Manzoor.
I give Polite Society 3.75 stars. I would have given it a higher score, but its pacing drug in a few spots, and its logic left the building several times. Despite that, it’s still a fun and wacky girl power film where everyone knows how to fight with martial arts. So grab your bestie and some popcorn, and enjoy this on the big screen.
Directed by: Nida Manzoor
Written by: Nida Manzoor
Selig Rating: 3.75 Stars
Running Time: 103 min
Wide Release: April 28th in theaters only
Starring: Priya Kansara, Ritu Arya, Renu Brindle, Nimra Bucha, Seraphina Beh, Ella Bruccoleri
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie/show, well worth the time and price.
4 Stars – Good movie/show
3 Stars – OK movie/show
2 Stars – Well, there was nothing else…
1 Star – Total waste of time.