Movie Review: "Race 2"
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Length: 150 minutes
Release Date: January 25, 2013
Directed by: Abbas Alibhai Burmawalla, Mastan Alibhai Burmawalla
Stars: 3 out of 5
Many Bollywood film franchises have only one or two characters returning from the previous film, if that. Only D'Costa (Anil Kapoor) and a minor player from the original "Race" come back for this film, which features a completely different story. This means that viewers who haven't gotten around to watching the first film can jump right in and watch "Race 2" as a stand-alone movie without any confusion. The two very slight connections to the first film are explained away quickly and are not a central part of the smart, somewhat complicated plot.
The first act of the film introduces the audience to Armaan (John Abraham) and Elena (Deepika Padukone), a ruthless brother-sister duo who use their street smarts and charm to get exactly what they want. Armaan is the muscle and Elena is the brains of the outfit, which makes them a formidable duo. They attract the attention of master conman Rajiv (Akshaye Khanna) and his brother Ranvir (Saif Ali Khan), two men with wealth to spare who still want to amass more cash. They try to convince Armaan and Elena to join them in a con that will make all four of them rich beyond their wildest dreams. After seeing the brothers flaunt their wealth with money, cars, houses, and even horse races, the siblings have a hard time saying no.
The con involves the casinos of Vikram Thapar (Rajesh Khattar), who did some very bad things to Ranvir in the past. Ranvir plans to acquire Vikram's casinos in a high-stakes game of cards, and then sign them over to Armaan, who is more than willing to take them. It is soon revealed that Ranvir isn't just overly generous to Armaan; instead, he plans to kill him and take back the casinos. The only problem is that Armaan already knows what Ranvir is going to do, but plays along like he has no idea. Once the casinos are signed over to him, he plans to do the killing first, so he can keep the properties and live happily ever after as a rich man with his sister and gorgeous girlfriend Omisha (Jacqueline Fernandez) in tow. First, he must make sure that Ranvir and Rajiv are not privy to his plot, so he must use every bit of cunning he can muster to keep his plot under wraps. Unfortunately for him, the brothers have been at the con game much longer, and are constantly on the verge of figuring out his plan.
"Race 2" combines some of the classic Bollywood tropes, like musical sequences, and adds a pinch of James Bond to them. It is almost reminiscent of the excellent 1990 film "The Grifters," because the two teams of siblings at the heart of the film really are exactly that. They have pretty much conned their way to gaining every worldly possession they have, and every possession they will get in the future. This is because they don't pull the cons for the riches that they get, but rather for the thrill of the high stakes in each job. They could have half the wealth of the entire globe, but all four would still continue to pull new heists because they love it. They are adrenaline junkies, only instead of skydiving or windsurfing, they prefer stealing and cheating to get their thrills.
Directors Abbas and Mastan Burmawalla have put together a stylish thriller with gadgets, CGI, and technology playing a significant part in the overall plot. One particular scene involves a set of digital playing cards with faces that can be changed remotely by iPhone. It may seem unbelievable that such a thing exists, but that is half the fun of the film. Once viewers surrender to this world of high-tech wizardry, it is a fun ride with some fairly tense and exhilarating scenes that lead to a thrilling ending with plenty of twists along the way.
The performances are all great, with Kapoor nearly stealing the show in the scenes that he is in as the retired cop who reluctantly begins investigating the heist. He shows why he is one of the biggest names in Bollywood by turning in a performance that is equal parts charming and smart. Since the series is likely to continue going with a third film, it would not be a surprise to see Kapoor suit up as D'Costa again. Any gap between this and the inevitable third installment gives the audience plenty of time to go back and view the first film if they haven't done so already, since this franchise has a good chance of going mainstream beyond just India. It could very well help continue the trend of Bollywood films going global due to its winning combination of Bollywood flair and western sensibility and style.