Thursday, January 4, 2024


Film: Polite Society
Format: Streaming video from Amazon Prime on Fire!

It must genuinely be exhausting defining your world by the things that you hate. Polite Society is the sort of film that will absolutely piss off the same crowd that had a temper tantrum at Barbie and boycotted Keurig for being “woke.” Why? Because the main characters are British-Pakistani, and it’s very much a sort of action-fantasy. It’s a fever dream of a film, a ridiculous plot taken completely seriously in the context of the film, and because it does, it works entirely.

Ria Khan (Priya Kansara) is a British teen whose aspiration in life is to become a stunt performer in films. She calls herself “The Fury” and makes videos with the aid of her sister Lena (Ritu Arya), an art school dropout living back at home. While Lena supports her, Ria’s parents Fatima and Rafe (Shobu Kapoor and Jeff Mirza) would prefer a more traditional career and life for her.

Things start to change when the Khans are introduced to Salim Shah (Akshay Khanna), the most eligible bachelor in the community. A geneticist working in pediatrics and obstetrics, Salim is wealthy, fit, and attractive. And, for a bit of a shock, he shows a great deal of interest in Lena, who is immediately swept off her feet, and soon enough, they are engaged, and the wedding is on. When Ria discovers that immediately after the wedding Lena and Salim are going to move to Singapore, she decides to act.

With her friends Clara (Seraphina Beh) and Alba (Ella Bruccoleri), Ria looks for dirt on Salim, but comes up empty, and in her frustration, angers her friends. She continues to look for dirt, and eventually ends up breaking into the Shah’s house. Everything seems to be too perfect, and it is until Ria is essentially kidnaped by Salim’s mother Raheela (Nimra Bucha). In trying to escape, Ria discovers that the Shahs have a medical lab and there actually is something nefarious going on.

Polite Society is a ridiculous movie. The plot is ridiculous and everything is over the top. And, specifically because the plot is ridiculous and everything is over the top is why the whole thing works. Polite Society is a joyride of martial arts insanity cloaked in respectable British-Pakistani society. The selling point of the movie is the fact that whole thing feels like it’s happening in Ria’s fantasy world, where she gets to have martial arts battles and rescue her sister from people who want to do something terrible to her. For me, though, this is ultimately secondary Ria and Lena are completely believable as sisters in all respects—they annoy each other and support each other through everything.

I’m not particularly close with any of my siblings; I’m the youngest of five, and both of my brothers and both of my sisters are considerably closer in age to each other than they are to me. They have a much tighter relationship with each other than any of them do with me. But there was one time in the late ‘80s when I was home and my brother, the closest in age to me, was done with college and living at home again. Every day for a few months, I would come home from school and he’d be home after looking for work. We’d put reggae albums on the turn table and shoot each other with dart guns for about an hour. Steel Pulse’s Earth Crisis album will always make me think of getting whapped in the forehead with a suction dart. It’s a fond memory, and the relationship between Lena and Ria reminds me of that.

And here are some really important things to note about this film. First, this is director Nida Manzoor’s feature-length debut, a fact that is staggering to me. This is a mature film, and this as a debut is as shocking as Get Out being Jordan Peele’s first work behind the camera. This film is that confidently made and directed. It’s smart and fun, and it takes a lot of risks that pay off. This is a Jackie Chan fantasy played on a Bollywood stage, and it works as wonderfully as you’d hope and far better than you’d believe.

Second and just as important, this is Priya Kansara’s debut film, and she is absolute a riot to watch. I hope she has a long and wonderful career on screen, because she’s got the chops to do it. While she has a lot of help throughout (both her friends, her sister, and her rival-turned-friend Kovacs, played by Shona Babayemi are great), she’s the one who puts this film on her back and drives it home with a spin kick.

I am wildly entertained. I hope Ria gets a sequel and Nida Manzoor directs a film every 12-18 months.

Why to watch Polite Society: It’s ridiculous in the best possible way.
Why not to watch: If you are the type who eats at Chick-fil-a because they are anti-gay, you’ll hate it.


  1. I definitely want to see this. Plus, I like Chik-Fil-A because of the food and could care less about their political/religious views. Plus I've heard they have issues about opening on Sundays. Honestly, I thought these people were greedy and to not work on Sundays? Talk about contradictions.

    1. I operate under the idea that spending money endorses the worldview. The people who run Chick-fil-a have donated significant amounts of money to organizations that seek to get rid of same-sex marriage and criminalize homosexuality--they're behind the laws in Uganda that put gay people in prison for life for being gay. I don't want my money going to that, so I don't give them any money.

  2. I love this movie! It was such a surprise for me. It's easily in my Top 10 of the year.

  3. Sounds great. I'll have to check it out. I love having non-white protagonists because, unfortunately, it's so rare in American movies.

    I don't eat at Chik-Fil-A for the same reasons you don't. Screw those hateful assholes.

    1. I predict you will enjoy this, and you should. It's really fun.