Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

March 23, 2012

Guns N’ Poses

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:32 pm

March 23, 2012

Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Ram Kapoor, Adil Hussain, Shahbaaz Khan, Prem Chopra, Gulshan Grover, Dhritiman Chatterjee

Director: Sriram Raghavan

The most gobsmacking brilliant portion of Agent Vinod is a roughly 3-minute shootout scene set in a seedy East European motel. Even as bullets fly in the lobby between RAW-agent Vinod (Saif Ali Khan) and deadly assassins hot on his trail, a love ballad drowns out the gunshots. The action is captured almost poetically, as Vinod and his accomplice run in and out of corridors and motel rooms, dodging the firing. Now imagine all this in a single tracking shot!

The rest of Agent Vinod, unfortunately, is missing the deft hand that writer-director Sriram Raghavan brings to this spectacular sequence. And it’s not for want of imagination or ambition.

Our super-spy hero is in pursuit of an ISI Colonel (Adil Hussain) who’s threatening to set off a nuclear bomb in New Delhi. The film kicks off with a series of convoluted events that you later realize are connected by the two sides trying to lay their hands on the nuclear bomb detonator.

In the midst of it all, Agent Vinod meets undercover Pakistani spy Iram (Kareena Kapoor), who realizes she’s a pawn in a terror plot, and quickly joins him in his efforts to seize the detonator. As the story hops across the globe – Afghanistan, Moscow, Morocco, Latvia, Somalia, Karachi, India, and London – Vinod discovers more clues that point to a deeper international conspiracy.

Frankly you must appreciate the clarity and smoothness with which our hero goes about this mission, given that as an audience you often find yourself playing a complicated game of cat-and-mouse with director Sriram Raghavan. The film’s plot is suffused with undercover agents and double agents, as well as characters that are introduced and bumped off before you can blink. It’s as if the phrase “deliberately obtuse” was invented to describe this film, especially as you try to navigate through the fog of the first half.

In the style of those 70s spy thrillers that are evidently a big influence on Raghavan, Agent Vinod offers a bunch of farcical baddies – the one-eyed Pakistani general (Shahbaaz Khan), a grey haired Russian drug-baron (Ram Kapoor), and a ponytailed Moroccan crime-lord (Prem Chopra). Even good ol’ Gulshan Grover pops up as a most-wanted Dawood-like don based in Karachi. He’s so blasé that when the masterminds require him to be a cog in yet another terrorism plot, he replies dryly: “I’m so bored!”

To be honest, by this point, so are you.

For a large portion of Agent Vinod, you don’t know where things are going…and then it all stretches on so needlessly that you stop caring. Given that this is a film that sees itself as a desi-style Bond, it has glaring loopholes that are embarrassing. Like a tacky scene in which Vinod spots a familiar scorpion tattoo on a doctor’s wrist that helps him deduce that he’s actually an assassin. Or the ridiculous pre-climax portion in which a grievously injured character is gasping out a password to our hero, as he frantically tries to disarm a bomb while flying a helicopter.

The action in the film is choreographed slickly, but you can’t help feeling a tad let down. In these days of visceral fight scenes and breathless chases that you’re accustomed to seeing in the Bourne, Bond, and Mission Impossible movies, the rapid editing of the action sequences here never allows you to take in the repercussions of the violence. What cripples the film even further is its uneven pacing.

Although littered with quirky supporting characters, none of the actors in the film stand out, save for its two leads. Kareena Kapoor performs adequately in a role that mainly requires her to look wan and sad; then performs a mujra with much-needed gusto. Saif, meanwhile, was born to play the suave super-spy. He has the body language, the swagger, the physical chops, and even that hint of humor – you’re most entertained when he’s on screen.

Speaking of humor, the film benefits considerably from its stray tongue-in-cheek dialogue and occasional script zingers. While wolfing down spaghetti, even as Iram stares on blankly, Vinod tells her “Kuch paane ke liye, kuch khaana padta hai”. At another point when the local police in Latvia arrives to question him, he says “Aap katar mein hain”, referring to the fact that more than one country’s authorities are looking to get their hands on him.

It’s moments like these – sadly too few and far between – that bring a smile to your face during the two hours and forty-odd minutes of this disappointing film. Director Sriram Raghavan ,who gave us such taut thrillers as Ek Hasina Thi and Johnny Gadaar previously, injects Agent Vinod with so many varied influences that it never finds its own distinct identity.

I’m going with two out of five for Agent Vinod. He’s a spy who knows how to save the day; he just needs a better plan.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)


  1. Haven’t watched it yet. But it looks like Sriram Raghavan went wrong this time. It doesn’t matter. I will watch it at my own risk just because of my respect for Sriram.

    Comment by Raman Kumar — March 23, 2012 @ 10:46 pm

  2. yOU DID NOT explain the role of the music in the film…
    does it add to the story?

    Comment by jAY — March 23, 2012 @ 11:15 pm


    Comment by Quentin tarantino — March 23, 2012 @ 11:23 pm

  4. horrible pathetic 3rd class movie , even tho i didnt watch chaar chandni based on 0 star ,cant imagine why this got 2 !!!

    Comment by arnav — March 24, 2012 @ 12:54 am

  5. Saif should have put all his money in KAHAANI,coz AGENT VIDYA was far more interesting and exciting…..

    Comment by shivraj patil — March 24, 2012 @ 1:16 am

  6. boring

    Comment by khan — March 24, 2012 @ 1:26 am

  7. Totally agree with u sir.
    Here’s an attempt to review it.

    Comment by Anuj Poddar — March 24, 2012 @ 7:23 am

  8. Its a one time watch movie….Every movie can’t be 3 Idiot or DDLJ…..Go for it…

    Comment by Amit — March 24, 2012 @ 8:54 am

  9. Perfect review…I didnt like it….had a lot of expectations after Ek haseena thi and Johny gaddar.

    Comment by Biman Saha — March 24, 2012 @ 11:08 am

  10. while watching this last night…i knew somehow that u’ll point out KUCH PAANE KE LIYE KUCH KHANA PADTA HAI…in ur review :)…here is mine….

    Agent Vinod : Disguised in genres like suspence/action/thriller/spy…this one is actually more of a film(!?) from World Tourism.kiddish plot nd gamish treatment.though he tries too hard…Saif has no charm of bond,no attitude of SRK or no skills of Aamir.he is totlly misfit here. this cant be the film from the man who made Ek hasina thi nd Johny gaddar..its more of Saif’s own fantasy

    Comment by Jignesh — March 24, 2012 @ 1:22 pm

  11. http://rrachna.com/2012/03/23/movie-reviewagent-vinod/

    My Review!

    Comment by Ashwath — March 24, 2012 @ 8:27 pm

  12. Agree. Have a look at my review here http://thepuccacritic.blogspot.com/2012/03/agent-vinod.html

    Comment by Anup Pandey — March 24, 2012 @ 8:36 pm

  13. i think its THE WORST SPY MOVIE i ever saw…

    how can rajeev give it a **.. it doesent even deserve a single..

    i think saif and raghvan are friends of rajeev…..

    how can a fight scene progress with a romantic song behind it…..

    Comment by siddharth — March 25, 2012 @ 12:43 pm

  14. Most biased review ever! How can anyone see anything good in this disaster of a movie? This should have got 0 stars!!! Complete waste of money and time.

    Comment by Sourabh Aggarwal — March 25, 2012 @ 1:52 pm

  15. Sriram Raghavan is one sound minded guy. I would still go watch the film for the attempt he has made. Any director is bound to go wrong unintentionally. Just didn’t expect him to make a movie with Kareena Kapoor and Saif together. Just Saif should have been fine. Cheers!!

    Comment by Swaroop Kodur — March 26, 2012 @ 12:43 am

  16. As a film historian, allow me to enlighten all of you that this film is inspired by the 70s film of the same name that starred Mahendra Sandhu, which went on to be a super duper hit. The only other bollywood secret agent other than Mahendra Sandhu has been Dharmendra who starred as a sauve bondisque hero in Ankhen oppposite to Mala Sinha.
    I suggest that instead of watching this Safieena flick, pruchase DVDs of Ankhen and Mahendra Sandhu’s Agnet Vinod, relax over alu-pharatas at home instead of going to the multiplex and wasting one evening of your life.

    Comment by DrSudhakarNatarajan — March 26, 2012 @ 9:53 am

  17. yar main to sirf gane dekhne ke liye gaya tha lekin lots of disturbance in the movie at that time play a song in the movie why director create such a foolish and faltu movie mujhe abhitak ye bhi nahi pata chala ki concentrate karke bhi movie dekhne ke bad bhi story kuch bhi samaj kyu nahiaati??????????? plz do not watch anywone for this third class movie

    Comment by raj — March 26, 2012 @ 10:47 am

  18. You are right. It’s mindless movie. The director and story writer has wasted producers’ money. It could have been better if it had a central theme. all lost. I am disappointed.

    Comment by Sandeep Srivastava — March 26, 2012 @ 11:13 am

  19. I didn’t understand why junta is giving such a bad reviews to this movie.
    In my opinion ‘length’ is the main killer for this movie. This Genre movie should be cut to 100-120mins.
    Otherwise this movie has some good things in it i.e.back ground music, retro references, action sequences.. etc.

    Comment by srini — March 26, 2012 @ 3:26 pm

  20. no doubt agnipath ki theen stab ke bad revenge karne vaale hero ko thaalian bajne vale aur “main kutha hoon ye meri kuthiaa hey” jaise dialogue pe hasne vale gaddon ke liye ye kaafi nahi hey…. This is a wonderful movie with its own features…. The director has tried his best not to go unrealistic

    Comment by Ajber Rahman — March 26, 2012 @ 8:52 pm

  21. You’ve got to be more consistent with your reviews. Out of Ra ONE, Bodyguard, Players (what a crap movie) and Agent Vinod, I think AV was much better than others, then how come they get 2.5 stars and AV gets only 2. It not a bad attempt by Sriram Raghvan. Definitely a 1 time watch.

    Comment by Anudeep Bhandari — March 29, 2012 @ 12:02 am

  22. After reading so many bad reviews I still had the nerves and guts to watch it. And it was not that bad… c’on… Don2, RA One & Bodyguard, Agnipath was worse.
    I had seen Don2 right after MI4 and I was wondering why was I wasting my time watching a DON who seemed to have a personality disorder and did not know what he was doing – one time he was the bad guy and the next moment he was a buffoon dilly dallying with Roma & also singing songs.
    But Agent Vinod was not like that. The movie was fast paced, very stylish and keep you wondering what would happen next. Not many people will like this movie because it is not a regular masala bollywood flick.
    It was a tad longer than required. But overall it was a good one time watch. The best thing about the movie was definitely the Colonel – Adil Hussian – the merciless and ruthless yet charismatic.
    The background music and the action scenes were good too.
    I would not agree with your reviews on this Rajiv.

    Comment by nandini — March 30, 2012 @ 8:38 am

  23. two and a half stars for Players and Two star for Agent Vinod… At least this one is much much better then that stupid insulting remake !!

    Comment by Dev — March 30, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

  24. Their is only three major problem with the movie….

    1. Sriram was preconceived with an idea of making it in various countries… its ok but he fails to connect all parts..
    2. Bollywodd cant think beyond pakistan as threat to india. it is a threat but needs to be handled in more sensible and realistic manner.
    3. Bollywood directors always needs a love story in every movie even its not required.

    its a good attempt but fails in delivering as its does not have emotions attached and screenplay is too weak.


    Comment by adheesh singhal — April 1, 2012 @ 1:01 am

  25. While agent Vinod is no kahaani, it’s no dud either. I will question Mr Masands sense when he rates Players higher than Agent Vinod.

    Comment by Dev — April 1, 2012 @ 4:26 am

  26. Rajeev Masand I have stopped watching your reviews. I only watch those movies for which you have given least reviews. It frustrates me to see you giving good ratings to worst movies. I believe that you get biased by big names and large production groups. Agent Vinod is by far the best spy movie ever made by an Indian director. AV does not have the usual bollywood melodrama neither it has any nonsense over the top slow-motion scenes to glamorize the actors. It is perfectly made and the best movie of the year. Still I was disappointed to see you giving it 2/5. It deserved much more rating that, specially better ratings than Ra1, Dirty picture, Agnipath. Ra1, Dirty picture, Agnipath are the worst movies of the year. There was nothing special in those movies. I think you have given more ratings because they had big stars.I also do not agree with your ratings on John carter. It is a very good movie. If you do not understand the movie than do not make an assumption that the movie is confusing. If you think you can only like usual bollywood movies with overacting than you should rate only those movies. i think you should create your movie segment. Rather than doing injustice to fans by rating everything bad. You should rate only those genre of movie that you understand or you are good at. Try not do review everything. This will be a good strategic move for you.
    I agree with Anudeep that you are not consistent with your ratings.
    Initially I used to respect your ratings, but now I do not care about what you say about a film. You have lost your credibility by giving biased ,rash, unthoughtful ratings to good movies.I will never see your ratings again. Good luck with your rating business. I want to see how long will people believe in what you write.

    Comment by Tarika — April 2, 2012 @ 6:35 am

  27. I think Rajeev does not know how to review movies..This was really a good attempt at a Indian spy movie….action was slick and movie was fast paced..It was entertaining for sure…I would have given it 3.5 for sure…anyways Rajeev has no taste for popular movies..he can only review art movies…..stick to that please

    Comment by Raj — April 4, 2012 @ 11:09 am

  28. Tarika and Raj.. Cudnt stop writing this..but you guys are wrong here to criticize Masand on this review.
    Masand, If ur reading this, Im sure u dont have to bother these..
    Ur reviews are brilliant..

    Comment by Chetan — April 6, 2012 @ 10:14 pm

  29. I couldn’t disagree more with you Rajeev. This was a very good spy movie – extremely well paced, entertaining and engaging. I was never lost in the plot. Movie making is a lot about showmanship and you mustn’t always ridicule it. If not better than bourne, this was at par with any bond movie. This movie needs to be appreciated for doing something so different and telling a smart story without caricaturing anything.

    Comment by Vikas — April 30, 2012 @ 8:42 pm

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