Synopsis – Revolves around a family that deals in borderline crime; ruthless and vindictive to the core.
My Take – What a marvelous year has been Bollywood going through! With films like Padmaavat, Pad Man, Baaghi 2, Raazi, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety, Raid, Hichki, 102 Not Out, Parmanu and the recent released Veere Di Wedding scoring at the box office all with the merit of appreciation, it really did seem like Indian film makers had finally stopped taking the paying audience for granted, well, until this one came along. Back in 2008, siblings’ director duo Abbas–Mustan reinvigorated the action thriller genre in Bollywood with Race led by Saif Ali Khan, and ably supported by Akshaye Khanna, Bipasha Basu, Katrina Kaif, Sameera Reddy and Anil Kapoor. Woven with thrills, style, twists and a soothing soundtrack, the film was justifiably rewarded with massive box-office success.
While the story continued with a 2013 sequel, the film despite the loss of novelty and the inclusion of campiness, managed to retain the fun, leading to further box office success. But there is a thing about sequels; they just keep getting worse, especially when the producers get greedy. With Salman Khan replacing Saif Ali Khan and Abbas-Mustan replaced by Remo D’Souza (ABCD: Any Body Can Dance), this quasi sequel promised ingredients of a star-studded cast, high octane sequences, seduction and betrayal. However, as we all know by now, Salman Khan is great at bringing in big box office numbers, but he really isn’t capable of producing or starring in quality films (I personally believe Bajrangi Bhaijan was a lifetime fluke).
Expectedly, the film is a horrible mash of style from previous films and Salman Khan‘s Being Human brand of gawkiness. Gone are the fun twists, and turns, instead the film is a wasted exercise in forcing us into join in the thrill. Laced with oodles of melodrama, the film is nothing but soul-less and predictable. The unintentional comedy is unforgivable because we have come to expect better from the films, even our aging super stars. While the film might sail through at the box office, thanks to Salman Khan‘s immense fan following, but it’s high time this so called Bhai realizes he cannot dump shoddy films like this on his ever-supportive fans, mainly as here he has managed to put an end to a once successful franchise.
The story follows Sikandar Singh (Salman Khan), the adopted son of Shamsher Singh (Anil Kapoor), a ruthless arms dealer who settles in Al-Shifa Islands years ago after fleeing from a small village, Zila Handiya, in Uttar Pradesh. With Sikander being the main imposer and the one manages his business in Beijing, Shamsher always ends up his attention and affection on him, much to the resentment of Shamsher’s own twins Sanjana (Daisy Shah) and Suraj (Saqib Saleem). While their focus mostly remains on fending off their rival, Rana (Freddy Daruwala), from killing them or their father, things begin to complicate when they find out that their mother has left a chunk of their inheritance to Sikander. However, when Yash (Bobby Deol), their loyalist and Sikander’s close friend/ body guard introduces femme fatale, Jessica (Jacqueline Fernandez), to the family, who has an agenda of her own, a race to win begins. Hence begins double-crossing, deceit, sibling rivalry, a love triangle, a dark secret and a hard disk locked in a vault in Cambodia, which contains scandalous videos and pictures of India’s top politicians.
Not that it matters, because the story is hardly the focus here. If you break down the film, this is what you need to consider – there are six main characters, each one needs a slow motion entry, each one gets an action scene (or in pairs) and a song/dance/dream sequence, which covers around 75 minutes, so you need only an hour or so more of storytelling, and if it’s a Salman Khan film, then you don’t really need much of a story either. Director D’Souza’s sole aim seems to be to make sure everyone has enough screen time and that his hero comes off looking good. You only need swagger, a topless shot of Khan, and a set-up which ensures that he comes out looking heroic. The film has clearly been dumped with Salman‘s favorite B-town people and that’s what exactly cost the film. In an attempt to follow the old formula, this film is just an old cocktail poured into a new, expensive, fancy bottle, which still tastes horrible. No amount of picturesque locations, sultry dance moves, shirtless guys, sexy divas, and unwanted action sequences can make it better.
It’s hard to put into words the trauma the film inflicts on your senses, it’s just so bad. Since this is the Race series, it goes without saying that this one too is filled with twists in plenty, but save for one or two, they are so ridiculously written that we scratch our heads, figuring out what exactly was the writer smoking. You know the film is bad when the best twist in the film is stolen from Housefull 3. While the first half, is more focused on establishing the family’s status quo and Jessica’s dynamics with Yash and Sikander, it’s just plain awful to watch with not a single redeeming scene. While, the second half does start off interesting, but soon falls down the rabbit hole, with needless songs. The much-talked heist scene in Cambodia is done away in a song that leads to a needless Baaghi 2 inspired action sequence in a jungle camp and an endless chase sequence. Things get intriguing in the climax, with some revelations, but then even the fight there is stretched way too much. If seeing Salman and Bobby pounce at each other shirtless in the desert makes you yawn, you know this film is a lost cause! Yes, the trailer has a gem of dialogues and that’s barely scratching the surface. In the first hour itself, they unleash poetry of scummy variety – something about Dils and Dells (what a product placement), Daisy‘s businesses – ours.
As Shamsher yearns to return home to his village in Uttar Pradesh, for some reason writers Shiraz Ahmed and Kiran Kotrial also use this film as an opportunity to make Anil Kapoor, Salman Khan and Daisy Shah, mouth Bhojpuri dialogues are hilarious, but inadvertently so. Also the characters here have an implicit code of conduct of referring to each other only as bro, no matter male or female. Considering that choreographer D’Souza is at the helm of this action extravaganza, it’s shocking to note the shoddy dance routines and the pedestrian lyrics. The only song with some style and energy is the Race anthem Allah Duhai Hai.
It seems the film’s screenplay and the dialogues have been written not with commitment to the story at hand, as much as a deep and abiding commitment to the leading man, who co-produced this film with the original franchise owners, Tips, as the unpardonably long film (150 minutes) appears to have been too much in awe of his leading man to have actually given him any basic instructions on the sets, and by now his legendary connect with his core fan following – the rest of the audience can go to hell. This is never clearer than in the finale when Salman looks at the camera and directly addresses his fans, as has been his wont through most of his career, as Sikander makes them a thinly veiled promise that there will be a Race 4 and teases them by refusing to confirm that he will be a part of it. Perhaps this is his way of assuring fans that he does not intend to make a habit of films like the gutsy, politically subversive Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015) and the thoughtful even if flawed Tubelight (2017). The sibling directors Abbas–Mustan must be laughing up their matching white sleeves, wondering how a cheerfully tacky but occasionally enjoyable franchise built on the themes of seduction and betrayal could get derailed in such spectacular fashion.
Talking about the performances, its kind of a mixed bag here. It goes without saying that Salman‘s Sikander is no Saif‘s Ranveer. The first time we see Salman Khan in the film, he plays a pterodactyl. There is a dizzying aerial shot of him surveying the skyscrapers of Al-Shifa from a vantage point on a helipad, helmet in hand, which immediately segues into a close-up of his eyes. His eyes are ostensibly designed to make audiences hoot with each blink of that ever-so-recognizable iris. What follows next is so ridiculous that I will not spoil it for you here, but suffice it to say that an airborne superstar puts many a winged dinosaur to shame. Here, he sleepwalks through a role, which barely causes him any inconvenience. Sure, he takes some efforts in the action scenes, but hardly takes any in the emotional ones. He simply comes across as a character who is doing whatever he wants and going in his own direction. He has become so used to playing the do-gooder in real life that it seems hard to get rid of it even on reel. There’s no pretense to prove otherwise. Maybe that’s why his character, Sikander Singh, modeled on a weird combo of James Bond and He Man, is also a brother trying to keep his family united. He can’t go wrong or do anything wrong and when it is family, nothing else matters.
As for Jacqueline Fernandez, when Salman calls you out for your ‘over-acting’ in the film then you know it is a doomed performance. Fernandez and Daisy Shah are good with their stunts, and it is particularly nice to see her cocking a snook at those who are cynical about women and action by modifying her tight skirt for a fight scene in which she turns her stilettos – a constraint in such a scenario, you would assume – into a deadly weapon. Sadly, Shah lacks presence and it is exasperating to imagine that director D’souza or Salman Khan felt she could equal Bipasha Basu’s charisma that was such an important part of the 2008 film. Bobby Deol is top notch, the only one who cares to act and puts some heart into their work. Saqib Saleem is only struggling through out, while Freddy Daruwala is wasted in a small and insignificant role. Finally Anil Kapoor is the best thing about this film, even though he is constrained by the not-so-imaginative writing and staccato rhythm of the screenplay that follows a ridiculous pattern from beginning to end. Only if the film had focused on him! He just lights the screen with his presence in every scene and when he is surrounded by really bad actors, you realize even a smirk on his face feels applaud-worthy.
To give credit where it’s due, the technical values of the film are really good. The production design by Rajnish Hedao gives the film a really glossy feel. The cinematography by Ayananka Bose makes the lush locales of Abu Dhabi, Ladakh and Cambodia even lusher. Even the action choreography by Anal Arasu and Tom Struthers is efficient, even if highly inspired from Hollywood films and the action scenes being over-stretched till they tax your patience. But a glossy product doesn’t make a great film, and with this one, we have not only the worst film in the franchise but also the worst Salman Khan film in a decade and that’s saying something, considering the garbage he usually stars in. The major blame falls on Remo D’Souza‘s pedestrian direction and Salman Khan, who probably believed this film was going to made Eid extra special for his fans, I am disappointed to say that this is just another damp squib of a chapter from this so called superstar. On the whole, ‘Race 3‘ is a half baked, illogical, and jerky action thriller with no redeeming factors, making it the worst film of 2018 yet.
Directed – Remo D’Souza
Rated – PG15
Run Time – 150 minutes