Is Murder 2 a slicker flick than the 2004 Mallika Sherawat starrer that it is a follow-up to? Yes, quite patently. Is it darker in tone and texture? Yes, most definitely. And is it steamier? Yes again, beyond an iota of doubt. But does it deliver the degree of novelty and crackling energy that Anurag Basu?s Murder did seven years ago? Not really.
In the years that have elapsed between the two films, Bollywood thrillers have acquired an infinitely gloomier, more disturbing tinge. Murder 2 adds nothing new to the still evolving ?Indi-noir? genre. For all its shocking twists, bursts of grisly violence and unbridled oomph factor, it isn?t the sort of humdinger that it might well have been had it been in more able hands.
To be fair, Murder 2 is edgy, fast-paced and pretty punchy, but only in parts. Director Mohit Suri, whose work always seems to be more about flesh than soul, goes over the top, and then a bit further, with the love and lust story track featuring Emraan Hashmi and Jacqueline Fernandez. These gratuitous and desultory add-ons are devoid of any chemistry. They slow down the film and dilute its sinister air.
Ignore the number suffixed to the title: this film has nothing at all in common with Murder but for the fact that the psychopathic villain hums the Bheege honth tere song when he's in a particularly bad mood. In that sense, Murder 2 isn?t really a sequel.
It ventures forth with a completely new set of characters, the action pans out in Goa (and not in Bangkok) and the film's narrative rhythm follows markedly contemporary rules. There is more murder and mayhem on show in this mix.
A renegade ex-lawman, Arjun Bhaagwat, works for drug dealers and sex ring kingpins. All he is interested in is money, morality be damned, because his parents died in penury. But haven?t we already seen too many of these cynical former cops supping with the devil on our screens lately?
What?s worse is that the back story that explains the reasons behind the erstwhile policeman?s wayward ways is way too sketchy and predictable.
The twist in the Murder 2 plot is provided by a pimp whose girls inexplicably begin to vanish into a black hole. The hero is summoned to get to the bottom of the mystery of the missing prostitutes. The search leads him to a desolate house in the middle of nowhere. He suspects it to be the hub of a human trafficking racket. It turns out to be much worse.
As he grapples with his own inner demons, he stumbles upon an eerie scenario dominated by a creepy serial killer who will stop at nothing to grab his pound of flesh. As far as screen baddies go, this neurotic monster, played with spine-chilling nonchalance by Prashant Narayanan, is in a league apart.
Even though Hashmi is fairly competent as the cop who must save his own girl (Fernandez) and a college student (Sulagna Panigrahi), who has taken to prostitution to support her indigent family, from the clutches of the twisted villain, he pales before Narayanan?s bravura performance.
Not that the villain?s character is written any better than the hero?s. But Narayanan demonstrates how a gifted actor can rise above the script by sheer dint of his own intelligence and skill. Narayanan has been in a wide variety of offbeat projects over the past decade, garnering generous critical praise for his performances without ever managing to make the deserved breakthrough into the mainstream big league.
Even if Murder 2 fails to tide over the bad reviews and gets bogged down at the box office, it seems pretty certain that this is the film that could well be the turning point of Prashant Narayanan?s career.
Murder 2 gets two stars plus a half for its villain.