In 1975, Indian filmgoers got a taste of their first chapati western. Sholay, the Bollywood film that went on to set national box office records only recently broken, borrowed heavily from Sergio Leone's tales of goons and gunsels. But language and inspiration are where the similarities end with Brit-Indian director Asif Kapadia's "eastern" The Warrior, a swashbuckling fable set in northern India about a fighter who abruptly decides to forgo his vocation as an on-staff pillager. Man-at-arms Lafcadia (Irfan Khan) has an epiphany mid-plunder, as he's about to lop off the head of a pretty young thing. This killing life is not for him, he decides, andforswearing all violence in one fell swoophe quits town and heads for the Himalayas. Would that the warlord he works for were so easy about letting his prime decapitator jump ship: A fellow killing machine is summarily dispatched to fetch the deserter's head. Kapadia's debut feature pulls no punches with size: Visual grandiloquence more than makes up for the bare-bones dialogue. But while high on mysticism and vast in scale, The Warrior seems more poised than poetic, and ultimately landscape proves to be the film's real grabber. If this moralistic apologue appears a tad too simplistic, at least the pictures are pretty. UDAY BENEGAL
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