This post is the updated copy of the review published on Dawn.com, 10th January 2012. The published version, is linked at the end of the post.
Mini-Coopers, Jet Turbines (on Refurbished Trains) and Unadjusted Gold
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
With its poster flickering in bronze and the tag-line, “Players, go for gold”, there’s actually very little left for the imagination. And that’s before we add Mini-Coopers in the mix.
“Players”, playing in screens across Pakistan, is an ineluctable mess staring Abhishek Bachchan, a safe full of gold and three mini-coopers zipping across subway tunnels. If this shapes the mental image of “The Italian Job” (2003), then you’re not far off. “Players” is an official remake, meaning it has full authorization to make like an outdated photocopy machine and vitiate familiar elements into an insipid, pedestrian heist movie.
Almost every tactic “Players” introduces in its 150 minute running time has seen better imaginings. Abhishek Bachchan (playing Charlie), adds personal zest and a smooth-criminal like charisma to the Abbas-Mustan directed thriller. However, one actor’s allure can only tow a film so far.
The barebones plot goes like this: Aftab Shivdasani (effective in his small cameo), after dying in the first few minutes, sends Charlie info that will have him assemble a team capable of looting a speeding train filled with unaccounted gold from the Second World War.
Charlie’s roll-call includes: Bobby Deol (meritoriously playing a reserved illusionist with a paralyzed daughter), Neil Nitin Mukesh (the token geek hacker), Bipasha Basu (a sultry double-dealing cat-burglar), Omi Vaidya (a failed actor turned prosthetic expert), his love-hate buddy Sikander Kher (playing a deaf-Pakistani named Bilal – the weapons expert) and Sonam Kapoor – the computer wiz daughter of Vinod Khanna, Charlie’s mentor.
By the film’s mid-point the group is betrayed of their gold and gunned down. From then onwards, Charlie and his remaining team try to outwit their betrayer from the stolen gold (no points for guessing the turncoat’s identity, by the way). Also on the gold’s trail is the Russian mafia, whose threat is absent for roughly 90 percent of the movie.
The principal cast tries its best to work the screenplay by Rohit Jugraj and Sudip Sharma, which has all the qualities of a spice-less Bollywood masala.
Even the heists – the principal USP’s of the movie – are laughably ludicrous. In one scene, Charlie and co. rig a rusty train with big cheesy striped turbines – that look like it came from the set of Thunderbirds – to turbo-boost its speed and catch up with the gold train. When the boosters ignited, thrusting the engine forward, I wondered when the train, barely keeping itself on tracks, would derail into the snow – as this is Bollywood, it never does.
As “Players”, sluggishly tugs forward, one realizes that it is laden with shallow, inexpertly hewn dialogues. Scenes often introduce glimpses of superficially drafted backstories that are hard-pressed between unappealing, flavorless songs (music credited to Pritam with lyrics by Ashish Pandit). It would have been a better gambit if the filmmakers had concentrated on a fresher, more contemporary storyline.
Now that Bollywood is officially creeping up Hollywood’s alley with extravagant budgets (“Players” is budgeted at $8.5 Million) and slick production values (the film’s producers should thanks the technically apt cinematography by Ravi Yadav), it’s about time old-school formula filmmakers re-learned their craft. From the first grade.
As the auteurs of this movie Abbas-Mustan are successful in crafting a flashy, ill-chosen mess, that’s right down there with the Vivek Oberoi’ starrer “Prince” and that’s saying something.
Published, 10th January 2012 at: http://www.dawn.com/2012/01/10/movie-review-players.html