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

December 1, 2011

Masand’s Verdict: Race is a pacy thriller

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rajeev @ 5:58 am

  Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Akshaye Khanna, Anil Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Katrina Kaif, Sameera Reddy

Direction: Abbas-Mastan

I don’t know about you but it’s been weeks since I last saw a good masala Hindi movie — the kind that requires you to suspend your disbelief and go along for the ride. Thankfully, Abbas-Mastan’s Race which opens at cinemas this weekend, is exactly that kind of film, it’s a pretty far-fetched thriller much in the tradition of their previous hits Khiladi and Baazigar, and yet it’s exciting enough for you to stop looking for holes in the plot and to go with the flow instead.

Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna play Ranvir and Rajiv Singh, brothers who’ve inherited a stud farm in Durban. While the older one Ranvir is focused on saving the business from bankruptcy and an avid derby enthusiast, Rajiv is the aimless, alcoholic spoilt-little-rich-kid. What both men have in common, however is an evil streak which becomes more than apparent as the reels unspool.

Sacrificing his love, Ranvir hooks up his younger brother with his sweetheart Sonia (played by Bipasha Basu), hoping marriage will cure his chhota bhai of his drinking habit. Sadly, that never happens. In a moment of weakness, Ranvir and Sonia slip between the sheets, and that incident sets off a series of betrayals, double-crosses and murders.

Add to this mayhem, Ranvir’s doting secretary Sophia (played by Katrina Kaif) who’s nursing a secret crush on her boss, who in turn mistakes her affection for job efficiency. Then there’s the fruit-chomping detective RD (Anil Kapoor), and his dim-witted assistant Mini (Sameera Reddy) who jump into the scene to investigate a mysterious death.

You learn soon enough, that nothing is what it seems, and nobody can be trusted. With enough plot twists to confuse a GPS navigation system, Race keeps you on the edge of your seat for the most part.

Like any good thriller film, Race never reveals all its cards at once. The layers come off one by one, and each time you think you’ve got it all figured out, another shocker hits you out of the blue. That’s not to say you haven’t guessed some of the surprises in advance. If you’ve watched enough Bollywood films — let me rephrase that — if you’ve watched enough Abbas-Mastan films, then surely you can predict at least a few of the twists yourself. After all, brothers back-stabbing each other and wives double-crossing their husbands are staple ingredients of their every film.

Nevertheless Race keeps you engrossed because it’s fast-paced and slick, and because it doesn’t allow you much time to consider its flaws.

The dialogue is clunky and full of labored lines, and instead of the clever one-liners you’d expect in a smart thriller, you get cheesy quips that make you cringe with embarrassment. Yeh toh bahut hansta hai, Akshaye Khanna tells Saif about a rival who’s just walked off after rubbing their noses in defeat. To which Saif delivers the idiotic one-liner — Jo hansta zyada hai, woh rota bhi zyada hai”.

You see, Abbas-Mastan aren’t famous for their smart lines or their original screenplays, but they’re usually at the top of their game when they’re dealing with themes that center around sex, lies and murder. And Race is a return to that formula.

The perfect antidote for a lazy weekend, Race is not a great film but delivers what it promises to deliver. It’s slickly photographed and has some exciting action scenes, but it’s got too many unnecessary songs that only add to the film’s length.

About twenty minutes shorter and you’d probably enjoy it much more, but in its present form it’s not such a bad deal. Of the cast, Saif Ali Khan stands out as the chap with the least dialogue but the one who makes the best impression, whereas the usually dependable Akshaye Khanna delivers an amateurish performance by hamming through his scenes.

Of the ladies, only Bipasha Basu scores with an understated performance. As for Anil Kapoor, what does one say about a fine actor who’s resorted to taking on such tacky roles? Surely you deserve better than those double-meaning dialogues and suggestive scenes!

In the end, Race has fast cars and fast babes, and it’s better than anything else its directors have made recently. Judged purely as a Bollywood thriller, I’ll go with three out of five for Abbas-Mastan’s “Race”. Because there’s barely anything else at the movies currently, I’m going to say – go watch it, you won’t be disappointed. And don’t miss that one scene with Johnny Lever. He’s back after so long and he’s so good.

Rating: 3 / 5 (Good)

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