#REVIEW: “MOGUL MOWGLI”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Zed (Riz Ahmed) is a British-Pakistani Rapper who has an offer to take part in his first world tour. Just as the excitement kicks in, Zed is rushed to hospital with a debilitating illness and may be forced to put his plans on hold for good.
It is a challenge to watch MOGUL MOWGLI and not immediately think of Ahmed’s work in the Oscar-winning Sound of Metal. He plays a musician in both films, has to overcome an illness that threatens to derail his career and he has to re-learn specific life skills in order to survive. While both films have moments of intimacy and ferocity, MOWGLI feels like a more personal project for Ahmed. He co-wrote the Script with first-time Feature Director Bassam Tariq (whose next project is Marvel’s reboot of Blade), focusing major portions of the Film on Zed’s family life, religion and his identity. While the Film has a habit of losing track of the bigger picture, the spectacularly visceral style of some scenes is riveting to watch. Fair warning on the flipside though, other scenes are loud, intrusive and disturbing. Tariq shooting the Film in the suddenly trendy 1:33.1 aspect ratio greatly adds to the naked emotions that drive the Film, making every moment substantially more intense and profound than a more conventional Widescreen ratio would dictate.
While the Supporting Cast is solid and has their share of standout moments (including Nabhaan Rizwan’s rival rapper RPG, whose hit music video for a track called “Pussy Fried Chicken” is positively bewildering), the Film belongs entirely to Ahmed. He pours every ounce of his soul and then some into Zed, reveling in the raw physicality of the role. The anguish and hardship he goes through feels genuine and authentic. He spends most of the Film in a hospital robe, yet you barely notice because you cannot take your eyes off his face. His focus and precision is a thing of beauty, and to the surprise of no one, his rhymes are pretty great too. And while it may be a small detail, getting to see Ahmed portray a character with his real life accent was quite refreshing. If you have had any doubts about what a massive talent he is, this should put all of them to rest.
MOGUL MOWGLI is a deeply-personal film that is just as intimate as it is intense. While some moments could have been tightened up, I enjoyed the Film overall. The in-your-face nature will not be for everyone, but those who do venture in will be gifted with another fantastic performance from Ahmed. He commands the screen with a presence that demands attention, and continues to prove what an incredible Actor (and Rapper) he is. He will not get another Oscar-nomination for this one, but if he keeps delivering performances like this, I have no doubt he will win very soon.
Photon Films release MOGUL MOWGLI in Select Theatres on Friday, September 3, 2021.
*Please ensure you exercise caution in observing COVID-19 protocols if seeing this in-theatre.*