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MR-9: Do or Die (2023) Review

MR-9: Do or Die is based on the first of a long-running series of mostly ghost-written novels chronicling the adventures of Masud Rana, Bangladesh’s answer to James Bond. Somewhat surprisingly given there are 500 or so novels in the franchise, this is only the second attempt at bringing them to the screen, the first being Masud Rana in 1974. Fifty years later, will the world be more receptive to the Bangladeshi Bond?

The film certainly starts on a familiar note with Rana (Abm Sumon, Dhaka Attack, Booking) running unnoticed across wide open lawns in broad daylight without being noticed. Despite his best efforts and his leaving a trail of bodies behind him, his target gets away and the two agents he was supposed to rescued are killed. That target was Roman Ross (Frank Grillo, Boss Level, Shattered) who, along with his billionaire brother Ricci (Matt Passmore, Nox, Army of One) run R&R Robotics. Ricci by the way, isn’t just the owner, he’s also a customer, having bionic eyes developed in their labs.

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Since R&R is also a front for the brother’s arms dealing, the CIA is after him as well, so Rana teams up with Duke (Michael Jai White, One More Shot, The Hit) and Paul (Niko Foster, Redwood Massacre: Annihilation, Check Point) to take their operation down.

I’ll admit, when I was offered the screener MR-9: Do or Die, I took a couple of days before saying I’d review it. I’d seen several films by director Asif Akbar such as Skeletons in the Closet and The Commando and found them severely lacking But, as with Mark Polonia films, Tubi Originals and anything with Amityville in the title, I ended up watching it and hoping for the best. After watching it, I have mixed feelings. It’s not as bad as I feared it might be, in fact it’s his best film to date. But it’s still not much more than average as these films go.

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While he does deliver a lot more action here than he has in previous films, it’s a very mixed bag quality wise. The cast is full of action movie veterans and also includes the likes of pro wrestler turned actor Oleg Prudius (Miami Heat, Wolf Warrior 2) and Kelly Greyson (Disturbing the Peace, Sleeping Dogs). But it seems, for every fight scene that works, there’s another where the blows are landing in a different time zone than the person they’re supposed to be hitting, or the camera trickery is obvious, sometimes both.

It’s the same for MR-9:: Do or Die’s multiple shootouts. The CGI blood and muzzle flashes are obvious, and for all the bullets they’re supposed to be firing there’s very little damage to walls, windows, etc. I know it’s a matter of budget, but that doesn’t change the fact it takes away from the impact and credibility of these scenes. Stretching the budget to allow for a couple of shattered windows, bottles, etc. would go a long way to making the film look better.

Part of the problem lies with Abm Sumon himself. If Masud Rana is Bangladesh’s Bond, he’s their George Lazenby, the fashion model turned actor who starred in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Also a model turned actor, Abm’s performance is rather bland and in the opening scenes it’s fairly obviously a stunt double, hidden under a hood and mostly shot from behind, who’s kicking ass. The script by Akbar, Nazim Ud Daula (Criminals, Chompa House) and Abdul Aziz ends on a tease for a second film, hopefully they get their star some acting lessons and stunt training before then.

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Grillo on the other hand gives a fun performance as Roman Ross and actually has some strong scenes with his son Remy, perhaps paying his father back for appearing in his film The Resurrection of Charles Manson, who plays Roman’s son Jason. Michael Jai White also looks a lot more lively than in many of his other recent films, I just wish he and Grillo’s fight hadn’t been cut short.

Overall, as I said, MR-9: Do or Die is about average for a budget minded action film. The fact it tries to cover the same territory as the megabudget Bond films, right down to a Q like weapons designer, probably makes it seem a bit worse than it actually is, though. If you just want to see some relatively mindless action and aren’t feeling too demanding, this will do the trick.

Quiver Distribution has released MR-9: Do or Die to theatres as well as on VOD and Digital Platforms.

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