Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Avengers (2012)

My hands are trembling as I type this. That should be sufficient indication of what I felt about The Avengers. The greatest build up in movie history, I waited patiently for four long years for it to come to fruition. First, there was Iron Man, then Iron Man 2, Thor and finally Captain America: The First Avenger. Each distinct, each entertaining. Finally, the wait is over and in the end, the payoff could not have been any better. In terms of spectacle and scale, it makes its predecessors look like small budget productions. At the same time, it is emotionally rich and very gratifying. The credit for that goes to one man, and one man only: Joss Whedon. The Avengers is testimony to what is possible when you give a creative genius nearly unlimited resources. This is Whedon at his absolute finest. The Avengers works, and works so fucking well.

I remember the last time I experienced such child like glee. It was when Woody and Buzz Lightyear zoomed across the road on a rocket to land safely in Andy's carton of toys. I was eight years old. I experienced a similar feeling when watching The Avengers. I laughed out loud, jumped for joy and jubilantly pumped my fist up in the air more than once.

The film's plot is simple. When the Tassaract (introduced in Captain America) is taken by Loki (Tom Hiddleston), he uses it to unleash his army and take over the Earth. To stop him and save the world, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) launches the Avengers Initiative. He brings together Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Black Widow (Scarlett Johanssen) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) to take on Loki and his evil army. But first, they must learn to work together as a team if the world is to have any shot at survival.

Sure, the plot lacks nuance. Of course, there are holes in the story. But in many ways, its simplicity and single mindedness are its greatest assets; for Whedon uses the opportunity to focus on the characters, toy with them, flesh them out and establish them firmly in the collective pop culture conscience of a whole new generation. There will be plenty of time for clever plotting in Avengers 2, which is an inevitability at this point. He uses his signature skill of deftly balancing humour and high octane action and drama to deliver gripping, thoroughly satisfying popcorn entertainment, with plenty of heart.

The film has some impeccable dialogues. Few writers do attitude as well as Joss Whedon and The Avengers is bursting at its seams with attitude. Not just Tony Stark, each character in the film has their moments of unqualified glory; even Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg). Therein lies Whedon's greatest triumph. The masterful puppeteer that he is (testified by his TV resume), he balances these heavyweight, larger than life characters beautifully. No one character is allowed to dominate, as much as Stark (and his fans) would have liked. They are established as equals, as a team, not just on paper but also on the screen. That is a tough task; but Whedon makes it look so fucking easy.

In terms of action, the film boils down to two mammoth battle scenes, one in the air and the other in New York City. A lot of imagination goes into conjuring up these sequences and unarguably, the mammoth budget is extremely well spent. Although he takes his time to come to it, when the action does come, Whedon delivers plenty of mind-blowing moments. At the same time, he is assisted by a brilliant cast that looks absolutely stunning and works well as a team. Unlike Thor, Tom Hiddleston really gets to shine as Loki here. Scarlett Johanssen not only is a classy actor but is also undoubtedly the most beautiful woman in the world. What more can you ask for?

Ultimately, The Avengers is not only a stunning conclusion to a series, it is a refreshing start of a new one. With Whedon at the helm, the possibilities are endless. As a superhero movie, it is closer to Superman than The Dark Knight, and better for it.  It is a very American work of art, one that pays due homage to its rich cultural base and yet, reinterprets it creatively for a much wider audience. Movies like this give blockbusters a good name and remind us why we love watching them. So buckle up people. Hearts will race. Adrenaline will rush. You are about to witness an epic movie.

Rating: 5/5

P.S.: Don't leave when the end credits start to roll. You may regret it.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Vicky Donor (2012)

After a great debut with the beautifully shot and severely underrated Yahaan, Shoojit Sircar offers Vicky Donor as his sophomore venture, the story of a vella Dilli da launda (Ayushmaan) who agrees to become a sperm donor for Dr. Baljit Chaddha's (Annu Kapoor) infertility clinic. Although he makes pot loads of money, which make his clueless mother (Dolly Ahluwalia) and grandmother very happy, things get complicated when he falls in love with an independent, outgoing Bengali girl (Yami Gautam) working in a bank.

Sircar hits a home run in his second innings. The film is undoubtedly the finest comedy I have seen since Khosla Ka Ghosla. Every aspect of it is spot on. The script is absolutely hilarious from start to end. The dialogues are ball bustingly funny in several places and the competition for the best scene is a tough one with plenty of candidates. My personal favourites are the drunk conversations between the mother and the grandmother and the scenes leading up to the marriage of the lead pair. These have you howling in laughter.

However, what makes the film truly great is in the way it handles the drama. Although it has been promoted as a comedy about sperm donation, it is so much more than that. It is a sweet, refreshingly honest love story with endearing, well fleshed out characters. Instead of sleepwalking or speeding through the drama to allow for more humour, those moments are handled with great care and maturity. The confrontation scenes in particular have been executed exceedingly well. The result is a genuinely heartfelt and moving experience where the viewer feels invested in the characters, a rarity in Bollywood comedies.

In terms of performances, Ayushmaan nails the role. He is absolutely convincing as the tharki with a heart of gold and the sperm count of Alexander. Yami Gautam looks gorgeous and enacts the dramatic scenes with surprising amounts of conviction. Together, they have tremendous chemistry and make for an attractive pair. Annu Kapoor is laugh out loud funny. The actor has been denied his due for a long time. Let's hope this film changes that. The actors playing the families of the lead pair fit their roles perfectly.

Overall, armed with a great script, solid acting and a nice soundtrack, Vicky Donor represents the changing times of Bollywood, where the quality of the film is its selling point rather than the glossy wrapping in which it is presented. Although the pacing could have been tighter in the second half, that is a minor glitch in an otherwise excellent film. It is an endearing love letter to the city of Delhi and its inhabitants. Alternately funny and heartwarming, it will leave you exhausted with laughter and maybe even a tear in the eye.

Rating: 4.5/5

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Music Review: Ishaqzaade (2012)

Although still relatively unknown, Habib Faisal has an impressive resume already. Scripting films like Band Baaja Baraat, he made his directorial debut with the immensely likable Do Dooni Chaar, a joyous, honest celebration of middle class life. Now he offers his next film, Ishaqzaade with another star son Arjun Kapoor and the flavour of the season, Parineeti Chopra. Made on a scale typical of Yash Raj Films, the film shows great potential for a marriage of gloss and content. The theatrical trailer of the film hit all the checkpoints, and looks quite fresh. The music has been given by the versatile Amit Trivedi and the lyrics are by Kausar Munir only cements that promise further.

The album opens on a relatively ordinary note with the title track "Ishaqzaade". Given that the trailer is practically exploding with attitude, the song is fairly safe. A romantic ballad, it is ably voiced by Jaaved Ali and Shreya Ghoshal. It is buoyant, melodious and grows on you after a while. However, it remains the least of the tracks in the album.

Next is the item song "Chokra Jawaan". This is where you see Trivedi get into the groove. The song reminds me of Kajraa Re from Bunty Aur Babli. The premise is similar: horny young man trying to woo a dancing hottie. However, the unconventional execution makes it a great outing. The 90s style beats, heavily reminiscent of Ek Do Teen days gives it a distinct flavour. Also, some stunning singing from Dadlani and Sunidhi Chauhan, who happily shed every shred of pretense and embrace their inner sleaze and tease, elevates the song to another level.

After this, we have a powerful, lilting tune in the form of "Pareshaan". A song about the exasperating confusion of first love, it is sung with great restraint by newcomer Shalmali Kholgade. It is also arranged beautifully by Trivedi who fuses Indian and Western instruments almost effortlessly. The use of the harmonium in the song is particularly noteworthy.

The penultimate track of the album if "Jhalla Wallah". It is also, in my humble opinion, the finest song of the album. It features Shreya Ghoshal in her post-Ooh La La avatar and she nails it. She really is shaping up to be the Asha Bhonsle of our generation. Few female singers today can claim that level of versatility. As a tune, the song reminds me of "Namak" from Omkara, in the best way possible. However, the true star here isn't Trivedi; it's Kausar Munir. A song about a woman bitching about her jhalla aashiq, the lyrics of the song are some of the freshest I have heard in years.Sample this:

Aashiqon mein jiska title Titanic,
Muaa! Kinaara dikha kar ke dubba ke gaya.

Humne samjha tha golden jubilee jise,
Woh toh matinee dikha karke chumma le gaya.

Hands down, this is the best dance song I have heard this year.

The final song of the album is "Afaton Ke Parinde" which serves as an alternate title track. This one's is more in sync with the mood and attitude of the film as conveyed the trailer. It's position is similar to that of the title track in Tashan, a severely under-rated album in my opinion. Again, the star here is Munir who brings his best to the table as a lyricist. His lyrics are fresh, contemporary and yet, are purer and truer to the linguistic roots of Bollywood music than most recent albums I have heard. The effortlessness with which he toys with language reminds me a lot of Gulzar. That is the greatest compliment I can offer for him. Seriously, where did they dig this guy out of?

Overall, Ishaqzaade isn't Trivedi's best album. That still remains Dev D, and maybe always shall. However, the songs work together well as an album and capture the youthful, mofussil charm of the film quite well. Featuring some great singing and a phenomenal new talent in the form of Kausar Munir, this is undoubtedly an album worth adding to your playlist and playing in loop.

Music: 3.5/5
Lyrics: 4/5

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Battleship (2012)

As tempted as I was to copy and paste my review of Battle: Los Angeles from last year here, I have decided to evaluate Battleship on its own terms, howsoever scant (read: non-existent) those terms may be. The fundamental difference between a game of any kind and a film is that you can't play the film. A film needs a premise, a plot and some themes to engage the viewer. It needs characters that you feel invested in and/or empathise with. A flashy film without these is like watching someone else play a game. It's boring, no matter how loud the explosions or how snazzy the special effects are. Battleship greatest folly is that it falls in that trap, and how. Its plot makes no sense. The script is a mere convenience to shoehorn senseless action and somehow fit in the format of the game. Cardboard has more depth than the characters. Basically, even by bad movie standards, this is a really bad movie.

You have a hero (Taylor Kitsch), an intelligent naval officer who has no aim in life (do they ever?). He looks like a cross between Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hardy but unfortunately, has none of the acting skills. He has an overbearing brother who is a bundle of bad American army cliches (why Alexander Skarsgard, why?). He likes this hottie, who is also a physical therapist with a heart of gold (but not enough 'impact' when running a la Megan Fox). She has a daddy (Liam Neeson) who is barely there, and better for it. Then there is the token black woman (Rihanna) to deliver "clever" lines like, "Damn!", "Boom!" and "Ain't that sweet?" There's also a Kentucky white guy who has the only remotely likable character around and a Japanese bloke who starts out fighting the hero, but then becomes his best friend.

So where's the plot you ask? Well, an alien ship lands and decides it will only attack what it sees as a threat. Despite all its advance weaponry, it cannot see beyond line of sight and hence, must attack on instinct, which is convenient because the American warships can't see them on radar either. So it's all about "hit and miss", conveniently incorporating the game's main angle. Why are they here? Do you really care to know?

At an exasperating 131 minutes, I really felt like going for that gun and shooting the editor. The film is far too talky for its own good, which may have been okay if the talk made any sense, but the dialogue delivery is so poor, that you can barely make head or tail of it, let alone evaluate its quality. There are a few decent lines here and there. However, looking for those is like looking for a strand of hay in a bag full of needles. It hurts.

I have a lot of respect for people like Michael Bay and Rolland Emmerich. They really know how to make a silly film entertaining. In all fairness, they have more hits than misses, and for good reason. They know what the audience expects of them, and more often than not, they deliver. Unfortunately, try as he might, Peter Berg is no Bay. He failed in Hancock. He failed in The Kingdom, and he fails monumentally here. His directorial skills are practically non-existent. His film is all over the place. He has no control over it, and from the look of things, he doesn't seem to have tried too hard to avoid that.

The patriotism pervading through the film results in serious overkill and makes Indian war movies like Border look mellow in comparison. Cringe-inducing is a word that often comes to mind. Japanese and American sailors playing against each other in Hawaii. American hero versus Japanese stud. And worst of all, there is a scene where the hero is looking helplessly at a WWII battleship and wondering use it against the enemy and in the background, one after another, ancient looking war veterans appear out of thin air to drive the ship, and the hero, to victory. The special effects are okay, nothing great really. The overdose of CGI makes everything look artificial. How I missed the model based realistic destruction of Independence Day and Titanic. Now that shit really made me go, "Holy fuck!" Unfortunately, nothing like that is in sight here.

Ultimately, Battleship is the ultimate American big budget cliche of a film; it's loud, silly and mindless. However, it is also deathly boring and you couldn't give a rat's ass about what the hell is going on. It's pathetic excuse for character building in the first hour just makes you long for the explosions, and when those come, you can't help but think, "Is that it?" Do yourself a favour. Ditch this and play the Hasbro game instead. Or better still, pop some corn, rent Independence Day, and have your mind blown all over again.

Rating: 1/5

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)

It's been a long time since a film made me smile this much and for this long. Several minutes after I had left the theatre, I had this broad, goofy grin on my face as I remembered the memorable scenes of the film, and they were many. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a beautiful film about travelling, ageing and finding yourself no matter at what point of life. It's optimism and hope is almost addictive. It is a conventional film by all accounts. However, it employs conventions well and assembles a cast of some of the finest actors in the British film industry today. These depth they bring to the script elevates it well above other conventional fares and the results is a sweet, emotionally rich and personally, a very nostalgic experience.

7 people in their twilight years decide to move to a hotel in Jaipur, India which promises to be an oasis for the elderly. Evelyn (Judi Dench) just lost her husband and leaves the sheltered life of a housewife for a new experience. Jean (Penelope Wilton) and Douglas (Bill Nighy) lost all their savings and are looking for a new start. Graham (Tom Wilkinson) returns to India after 40 years looking for a man who changed his life. Muriel (Maggie Smith), a racist English woman is forced to come for a hip replacement surgery and Madge(Celia Imrie) & Norman (Ronald Pickup) refuse to acknowledge their age and are looking for some action. The hotel, they find, is a derelict establishment run by Sunny (Dev Patel) who has great ambitions to turn the hotel around. As we see them navigate through the chaos of India, bonds are formed and broken; lives begin and end.

The film is scripted wonderfully. Although it stereotypes often and borders on racism at times, one must acknowledge the fact that it is scripted from the perspective of outsiders who are experiencing India for the first time. Having said that, it has a rare maturity when dealing with these issues and more importantly, it succeeds in capturing the experience of ageing quite truthfully. The narration by Evelyn as she writes her blog in India anchors the film in meaning. Certain scenes linger with you for a long time after they've concluded like when Graham meets Manoj, the man who changed his life and the conversations between Evelyn and Douglas.

The performances are wonderful. Even Dev Patel, who is usually annoying manages to endear by the time the film concludes. The older actors bring the required subtlety, experience and sincerity to their performances. They are the lifeline of the film. Of these, the film belongs to Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson and Bill Nighy. It is a delight to watch Nighy take on a dramatic role and do it complete justice. The moment when he confronts Jean about the elephant in the room is powerful and heartbreaking.

At the centre of all of this is India, a country I belong to and love. In November last year, I took a solitary trip for a month in North India and the film evoked many memories of my experiences. The camera captures the colours, sounds and the sense of ordered chaos rather brilliantly. The dialogues reveal insights about the country that are both, genuine and honest. The country becomes another character in the story, driving these people towards their epiphanies and experiences.

Overall, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is feel good without being syrupy. It is moving without being sappy and honest without being preachy. By the end of it, you may fall in love with the characters, as I did; leave the theatre with the urge to celebrate the life that you have and be greatful for the privileges it has to offer.

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Wrath of the Titans (2012)

If Manmohan Desai and Manoj Kumar were given Rs. 1000 crores to make a film today, the result would probably resemble Wrath of the Titans. It is an unabashed masala movie from start to finish and if you embrace that fact, you will have a jolly good time. It's plot boils down to a bunch of cardboard characters with some serious daddy issues out to screw each other over (with the fate of the world hanging in the balance). Seriously, the depth of their issues could be worthy of several Freudian analyses.

At the same time, I haven't seen such shameless display of machismo since 300. Testosterone seems to be  pouring out of every orifice of the film. But while 300 had at least a fixed villain, by the end of Wrath, you have all the heroes and villains (post spontaneous change of hearts) on the same side battling against a CGI monster and it took some effort for me to suppress the urge to shout, "Group hug!" For some of you, that may be a spoiler. It hardly matters, really. If it is the plot you are concerned about, you've entered the wrong cinema hall.

Having said that, the film is a substantial improvement over the first in every department, though that is not saying much. The 3D quality is great. The special effects are genuinely breathtaking in places, both in terms of imagination and attention to detail. The production is slicker; the pacing tighter. Bill Nighy provides some great comic relief. Rosamund Pike looks gorgeous. The acting sucks uniformly. But who cares right? When so much is happening on the screen, things like actors and plot become merely an excuse to stitch all the action scenes together and market as a film. Someday, computers will be able to direct a film like Wrath on auto pilot and those things will become redundant altogether. You just wait and watch.

Ultimately, Wrath is as spectacular as it is silly. But as far as visuals go, it is definitely a feast for the eyes. As long as don't waste your time with pointless things (like a plot), you may just have an enjoyable time.

Rating: 2.5/5

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Hunger Games (2012)

The Hunger Games doesn't have the most original story. The premise borrows copiously from other films and books (1984, Battle Royale etc.). Also, its philosophy has been visibly mellowed in the transition from book to film. However, what it lacks in originality, it more than makes up for in its execution. Thrilling from start to end and packing a surprisingly strong emotional punch, the film works both, as a teen phenomenon and as an entertaining film for adults.

In a dystopian future, a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from each district of the Capitol must compete in the Hunger Games, a fight where only one person can survive. When her 12 year old sister's name is picked, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers herself for the Games. Together with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), she must prepare and compete against trained, lethal fighters from other districts in the Games which are telecast throughout the Capitol as a source of entertainment.

The film is very well directed by Gary Ross who takes his time to establish his characters and their relationships. He uses close ups and hand held camera movements to create a visceral impact. Also, the minimal use of music in key places helps set the stark, menacing tones of the film quite well. Consequently, the characters and themes resonate with the audience from the beginning and the connection remains till the very end.

The writing isn't perfect. At times, you can feel the political undercurrents of the story have been dumbed down for the audience. But it is easy to overlook that in favour of the characters. Katniss makes for a wonderful protagonist. She isn't the conventional underdog. She is a rich, complex character and the perfect foundation for a series. Jennifer Lawrence essays the role with the right mix of ferocity and vulnerability. Her relationship with Peeta, which is crucial to the film, is evolved organically and with great care, a rarity in big budget films today. Josh Hutcherson gives a solid performance, complementing Lawrence at every step. Also interesting is her relationship with her mentor. The film benefits greatly from a competent cast with effective performances from Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Wes Bentley and Donald Sutherland. Although Liam Hemsworth has little to do in this film, I suspect he will get plenty of opportunities to offer a lot more as the series progresses.

If I have to pick a serious fault in the film, it would have to be in the action. In terms of cinematography, the close ups which help set the emotional undertones of the film so well do a great disservice in some of the action work. The editing is jarring and makes the action sequences almost incomprehensible in places. I strongly suspect this has to do with the PG-13 rating. Although the film does push the rating hard, given that it uses hand to hand combat rather than stylised action, the end result seems too tame in places, for example, the initial minutes when the Games begin.

Nevertheless, overall, The Hunger Games is a thrilling roller-coaster ride with clever direction, good acting and a strong emotional undercurrent which makes up for most of its flaws. What it lacks in blood, it more than makes up for in brains; a far more valuable commodity in blockbuster cinema these days. Ladies and gentlemen, buckle up. A potentially great series has just begun. May the odds be ever in its favour.

Rating: 3.5/5

Housefull 2 (2012)

Yes. I saw Housefull 2. I told myself, if I like this film, then either Sajid Khan has been abducted by aliens and replaced with a clone or it is time for me to stop reviewing films. Thankfully, neither is the case here.

In my previous review, I mentioned how certain scenes in Agent Vinod would make a great prelude to a porno. Scratch that. Housefull 2 takes the cake in that department. It's 159 minutes would be a whole lot more entertaining if it were a steamy porno, and the script offers several situations for one. Alas, it is not to be.

There was a time when the term "comedy of errors" meant works like Gulzar's Angoor, Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Golmaal and even David Dhawan's No. 1 series. Unfortunately, those times are long gone and they have been replaced by utter trash which offer plenty of errors but little by way of comedy. Such is the case with Housefull 2 as well. You will spend far less time laughing and far more trying to keep up with the numerous characters and disentangle the ridiculous plot. In its 159 minute runtime, there is about 30 minutes of humour, and that is a generous estimate. There are some truly hilarious moments particularly in the final 20 minutes. However, those are few drops of water in an otherwise barren terrain.

The first half is literally too difficult to endure. It's humourless, silly and meandering. I was tempted to leave in the intermission, but the prospect of Anarkali Disco Chali held me back. Some of the humour is highly offensive (particularly a scene involving Mithun and a dwarf); but by then, so much has gone wrong in the film, that it matters little.

The performances range from wooden to over the top. When Mithun is the most restrained actor in the cast, you know you are in trouble. It is cringing to see Randhir and Rishi Kapoor make utter fools of themselves with their loud, hammy performances. Chunkey Pandey should just stop acting (like really, someone stop him please!) and Boman Irani is wasted in an extended special appearance. The women are stick figures (figuratively of course, given Fat-rina is a part of the cast) that merely exist for eye candy purposes. The only saving grace is veteran villain Ranjit, who is riotously funny in a cameo appearance. 

There is not much else to say really. Housefull 2 is a bad, bad, bad film. It's plot...well, there isn't one there to begin with. If you find yourself laughing too hard (like me), it's probably at the atrociousness of it all; either that, or you've been exposed to nitrous oxide in the theatre.

Rating: 1.5/5

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Agent Vinod (2012)

I thoroughly enjoyed Agent Vinod, which is not at all to say that it is a good film. On the contrary, it's quite a trashy one, delightfully so; though that is not for lack of trying. There is a great film there, somewhere. There are some truly juicy ideas on paper. However, the end result is a hideously convoluted mess with unintentional humour as its primary redeeming feature. Broadly, the film's scenes fall into three categories: some would make a great prelude to a steamy porno, some are straight out of a 70s masala film (with little care for reinvention for a modern audience) and a few, fleeting moments are truly brilliant.

An arms dealer in Russia is murdered. He possessed a portable nuclear device that is stolen. It's detonator is about to be auctioned and several terrorists groups are in hot pursuit of both. A RAW agent with no name (Saif) is the only one that can stop them and to do so, embarks on a mission that takes him to Afghanistan, St. Petersburg, Morocco, Latvia, Somalia and anywhere else you can think of. On his journey, he meets the enigmatic Iram (Kareena Kapoor), who can't decide whether she's a criminal, a spy or a damsel in distress and plays all three parts as the script demands. The plot thickens and thickens and then thickens some more till the point where its just too thick to savour (or rationalise for that matter). At the same time, it is as transparent as boiled wax and the twists and turns are as predictable as they come.

Sriram Raghavan is one of the more promising voices of his generation. His previous film, Johnny Gaddar, was slick and cleverly plotted. It's impact was only marred by the sedate and lackluster performance of its leading man, Neil Nitin Mukesh. However, with Agent Vinod, he is absolutely all over the place. While the signature touch is there in individual scenes, he loses grip over the sprawling narrative surprisingly early on. He reveals all his cards in the initial reels leaving little by way of surprises or thrills. The film rambles on rather unnecessarily as if its sole purpose is to add as many fancy locations to its list as possible.

In terms of writing , if one were to start poking holes in the plot, it would sink faster than the Titanic. The word "preposterous" frequently leaps to mind. The film is overstuffed with characters, none of which leave a major impact. The villains are as cringe inducing as they are numerous. Not since Ram Lakhan have I so quickly lost count of the number of villains in a film. The most memorable of the lot is Ram Kapoor as a sleazy Russian drug lord and that's only because of how cringe-inducing his performance is. The central villain Colonel (Adil Hussain) is never fleshed out and is consequently, just dull. The editor deserves to be shot for butchering the action sequences with incessant, disorienting three second cuts.

There are some great moments though: the single take action scene in the seedy hotel in Latvia with Raabta playing in the background is a stroke of genius. The interaction between Agent Vinod and Freddie Khambatta is very well executed and the aunties in the auto are hilarious. There are plenty of cool cultural references from 70s masala movies to Charlie Chaplin. Alas, clever gimmickry alone does not a good film make, even if you add a sterling performance from Saif Ali Khan. He is the anchor of the film and gives a sincere, stylish and physical performance.

Ultimately however, the biggest problem of Agent Vinod is that it has no reason to exist, let alone exist for that long. It's like Harry Potter stuck in an endless maize filled with Basilisks, Blast Ended Skrewts, Boggarts and  other colourful beasts with no exit. It's amusing to look at for a while, but all rather pointless. If you go with a chatty bunch (as I did), you may just enjoy the film, but for all the wrong reasons.

Rating: 2/5

P.S.: Dear Mr. Raghavan, how could you, of all people, misquote the final line from Casablanca? Very disappointing.