A significant chunk of Mumbai filmdom’s creative output has changed for the better since the year 2008, the first quarter of which saw the release of Race, a Hollywood rip-off that had Bollywood critics run for cover.
Nearly five years on, the directing duo of Abbas-Mustan is still at it – cantering around aimlessly with a convoluted thriller that zips, zaps and zooms through an amoral landscape peopled by sharks and bloodhounds whose only trip in life is to settle old scores, hatch new conspiracies and, when necessary, lay murderous traps.
On the face of it, Race 2 is a glitzy, action-packed entertainer. Scratch the surface – in fact, that is all there is to the film – and what you are left with is superficial style bereft of logic and substance.
But, then, isn’t that the failsafe formula that has stood many a Bollywood pulp-maker in good stead over the years?
Race 2 proves how difficult it can be for a producer to let go of an idea that yielded a box-office bonanza the first time around. The makers of this film obviously haven’t heard of, or do not believe in, the law of diminishing returns.
Race 2 isn’t so much a sequel as an ill-advised rehash. Revenge, one character says, is a dish best served cold. Ideas, for sure, aren’t best served stale.
This is the second year in succession after 2012’s Players that Abbas-Mustan have the honour of unleashing the first Bollywood biggie of the year. Race 2, like Players, is big only on nausea-inducing clatter.
The obvious question is: does this slapdash scurry to the finishing line really have the steam to replicate the kind of runaway box-office success that the prelude had enjoyed?
Or will Race 2 go the way of the wayward Players, the Burmawalla siblings’ official Hindi remake of the British crime caper flick, The Italian Job?
At the heart of Race 2 are two wrangling men endowed with sculpted bodies and an ingrained air of masculine insouciance.
The brawny John Abraham (replacing the relatively scrawny Akshaye Khanna of the earlier film) ensures that the sequel has a markedly higher beefcake and testosterone quotient.
Keeping the boys company is a trio of bimbos all too eager to flash generous décolletage while playing second fiddle. All of the above is, of course, par for the course in an Abbas-Mustan film.
Many of the faces and the principal location have changed in the sequel, but the overall veneer is pretty much the same.
Race 2 is slickly packaged around dramatic twists and turns that fly at you thicker and faster than you care to count.
Race 2 moves at a fair clip and is packed with explosions, stunts and chases that might be crowd-pleasing. The trouble is that the narrative is too breathless for its own good.
To be fair, some of the implausible action sequences are startlingly good. However, they do not add up to a convincing enough whole that can paper over the holes in the narrative.
Some Bollywood directors tend to labour under the misplaced belief that a film must be crammed, end to end, with relentless excitement, extravagant dance routines and ear-splitting background music for it to find ready takers. Excess does not always yield success.
The action in Race 2 takes place in Turkey, where, we learn, that the Indian underworld is just as active as it is back home.
Ranveer Singh (Saif Ali Khan), a rare remnant from Race, scours the hot spots of Istanbul in search of the mastermind behind the killing of his beloved Sonia (Bipasha Basu in a cameo).
In his risky quest, Ranveer has to contend with a slew of men and women who, like him, are out to make a quick buck and get the hell out of here.
And, of course, there is ex-cop Robert D’Costa (Anil Kapoor), the only man who Ranvir seemed to be at ease with when the curtains came down on the first film.
The private eye has a gloriously daft female assistant in the form of Ameesha Patel. The actress isn’t seen much these days on the screen. Just as well!
Istanbul generally looks great as a backdrop through the lens of Ravi Yadav’s camera and much of the film is rather easy on the eye. But when the cars and bloodthirsty men get in the way, they only serve to muck up the view.
As for the women on the screen (Deepika Padukone and Jacqueline Fernandez), they strut around like wound-up automatons that are all decked-up but have nowhere to go.
Is Race 2 on your mind? Get rid of it pronto. This is a wreck of a movie strictly for action junkies who might be looking for a feverish two-and-a-half-hour ride that is far more giddy than heady.