Race 2

Actors: Saif Ali Khan, John Abraham, Deepika Padukone, Jacqueline Fernandez, Anil Kapoor, Amisha Patel
Genre: Action thriller
Rating: 2/5

Race jahan khatam hoti hai, wahin se shuru bhi hoti hai”, said John Abraham, in the end. If that did not give anything away, Race 2, written by Shiraz Ahmed, runs on a contrived plot. The film does not exactly begin where Shiraz left the prequel off, given new heists and newly introduced characters. But John was not entirely wrong, given the familiar design. Here’s one more from him – “Par finish line cross karte hi, main uski jeet ko meri jeet mein badal doonga” – sounds like a double cross? Quadruple cross? Race 2 is the videographic representation of the snowflake symbol I say.

PERFORMANCES:
From his days as a non-bankable solo actor, Saif has grown to be the main draw of the film. This said, and given that a good section of current crop of “lead actors” are not exactly playing characters their age,  Saif as Ranvir Singh is a character one would enjoy watching. Saif rocks the beard, but didn’t necessarily have to show off his “Kareena” tattoo so many times, note to the third man in white, Hussain Burmawala, editor. While Saif still has two left feet, his comic timing only gets better with time and age. His sense of fashion was never bad, but an Abbas-Mustan venture guarantees that added style quotient anyway. If anything, Saif could do action better.  John Abraham as Armaan Malik (what’s up with a Malik in every Race, director duo?) plays the baddie. Not like our Ranvir dude is a doodh ka dhula, but still, in comparison. John, with ample opportunities to re-live his model life on screen, actually also gets to be the strong component of this ying-yang set-up. While he is not strutting his designer stuff or no stuff (shirtlessness), John is generally found “making heist deals” sitting by a swimming pool, or riding an Audi R8. Much better than John dancing. Thanks to the storyline, Armaan was not shadowed by Ranvir, and John clearly has matriculated into bigger game.

Deepika Padukone as Elena, probably just had to be herself. There are not many nuances to Elena’s character, not even witty one-liners like did all male actors. Elena walks in and out of every alternative scene but does not do much to further the story. She clearly led the glamour race though. Jacqueline Fernandez as Omisha, can be omitted out of this review simply because she cannot act to save her life, and compared closely to Sushmita Sen on screen. But Jacqueline did have a meaty role to play, pun totally intended.  Omisha is portrayed as a multi-facted individual – shoplifting, fencing (not comparable to Jodha-Akbar), archery, and hold your breath, jumping off a flying aircraft simply clinging to the guy with a parachute being some memorable moments. Anil Kapoor as the sly and witty accomplice “RD”, is entertaining. The prequel had him mouthing double entendres, and Anil truly kicks it up by a notch this time with help from dialogue writer Kiran Kotriyal. Intentionally funny, Anil brings many laughs with fruit references to human anatomy, which have been out of imagination probably since 8th grade.  Ameesha Patel as Cherry replaces Sameera, and it did not matter who played bimbo. A Race franchise would require this actress to flaunt her curves, and Ameesha did alright. There is a special appearance by Aditya Pancholi, who plays godfather to the mafia, but there is nothing in the film that gives any such aura to his character. In fact, his intro scene where he steps out of a Lincoln stretch-limo, the type used by airport taxis, takes it all away .

DIRECTION, SCREENPLAY & CINEMATOGRAPHY:
The film cannot be called lackluster as it shines spic and span throughout. But it lacks sheen in the sense that the story unfolds exactly as you expect. Director duo Abbas-Mustan could have delivered some landmark films in the thriller genre. May be the idea was to develop Race into a franchise, similar to Dhoom, but the central theme is confusing. Race deals with both heists as well as betrayals. The focus is so much more on glamour, that the details don’t seem plausible.  The movie does not focus on relationships either, so no emotional hooks. So the end result is a potpourri of ingredients either not used in right proportions or not cooked very well together.  Screenplay by Shiraz Ahmed who also wrote the prequel is pretty entertaining. Yes, there are familiar elements that were part of the prequel – the action, the twists, the flashy cars, the flashy cars that are blown up, the beautiful locations, the glamour and the affluence. Also, the film has quite a few funny moments, mostly unintentional, which take away the mood of the film, but the elements are interspersed so well, that the details capture back your wavering imagination right quick. “Fast-paced” is a phrase that must not be used loosely, yet accurate enough to sum up Shiraz’s work in Race 2.

Among all technical aspects of the film, Cinematography by Ravi Yadav takes the cake. Ravi Yadav in the past has also directed a Telugu film by name Maro Charitra, which tanked, but his experience tells me he knows how the scene appears to the Director’s eyes. The franchise, now having moved to Turkey – Cyprus – Italy, has new views to offer. There is nothing desi about the film except the characters speak and sing in Hindi, and watch Hindi news. Capturing the city feel and the glamour is really an art, and this, coupled with the art direction, had to present many options or artistic challenges as I would rather call it. The art direction folks ended up making some really good choices about everything from clothing (except the characters wearing eyeshades all the time, like they had conjunctivitis or something) to outdoor locations to cars to indoors to make up to colour to lighting. The glamour expanded to gadgetry as well. Eyeshades that manipulate cards in a hand and Audi R8 that shoots up parachutes on flying off a cliff are cool things to have in a film..if topped off with good post-production work. Great visuals overall, even if you consider that the action sequence in Cyprus aped a Bourne or a Tiger.

MUSIC:
Music by Pritam is somewhat contemporary. Somewhat because some of the songs actually reminded me of Vengaboys, the pop group from the 90s. Most of the songs are dance numbers and keep up with the vibe of the film. The background score by Salim-Sulaiman excellently complements Pritam’s score, and the theme music runs throughout and helps to keep one engaged. 

Why 2/5:
Don’t get your hopes too up, but then again, Race 2 is no Players.
The good: Cinematography, Screenplay, Timing of the twists, Music, Saif Ali Khan
The bad: Expected plot progression

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