Force 2 is coming out, which finally got me to go back and watch the first one. I remember there was a lot of buzz about a “whole other kind of John Abraham movie”, and I remember really liking the songs. And then I remember learning about the plot and deciding that I didn’t want to see it after all.
About a 3rd of the way into the film, John Abraham’s character is asked what makes him such a dedicated cop. And his response is that he is just like that, always has been, not everything needs a backstory. That’s the brilliance of this movie, the “no backstory” rule.
Everything feels like it unfolds based on people’s natural personalities, not some over-arching fate or destiny, and not some series of events set in motion years back. Sometimes bad things happen, and sometimes people are heroes, and sometimes people fall in love, and there’s no point in looking for anything deeper in it than that.
And somehow, by making the characters so simple, it also makes them more complicated. These aren’t cookie cutter “torn by my dark past” kind of people. They are each unique and a unique motivation drives them. Because they were born like that. That also means that morality and choices become much more varied. At the start of the film, a special team is put together to hunt down drug dealers. On paper, it is made up of the standard elements, the ambitious fresh-faced kid, the hardened “hero” cop, the somewhat comic cop, and the older wiser one who is by the book.
But they don’t act like they know they are stereotypes. The dialogue and performances turn these people into real three-dimensional characters who have lives outside their jobs, and depths that the audience will never know and can only guess at. That’s another thing the movie calls out directly, can a cop ever be just a cop? Should a cop ever be just a cop? Or should the let other areas of their lives blossom?
And just as our “hero cops” aren’t cookie cutter film characters, neither are their love interests. The young wife of the young cop isn’t dressing traditionally or sitting at home, she is out in malls joking with him. The older wife of chief detective (Sandhya Mridul, who I know from Saathiya where she was THE BEST) is respected for herself, not just as an extension of her husband. John asks her advice just to get her advice, even if it disagrees with her husband’s. And Genelia is awesome!
(Love her! Acting as the chaperone for her little sister’s first visit to her boyfriend’s house)
Genelia is bright and cheerful and knows what she wants, and she wants John. And she knows she will have to take the lead because John will never do anything about it. Their romance is delightful, watching him shyly slowly move towards admitting his feelings, while Genelia just leaps in with both feet and tries to drag him along behind her.
I’m not saying this is a super artsy movie or has some huge statement or anything. But I can see why people were so excited about it when it first came out. Because it’s mostly a huge awesome action movie with guys thrown through walls and stuff. But the character bits in between action scenes aren’t just marking time, they are integral to the plot, they help us to understand the action scenes better.
The title of the movie is “Force”, and that’s what the film shows, the police force as a unit. The force of the emotions that drive them. And the force they have when they join together with a common goal.
Okay, you ready for the SPOILER part of the review? Where I talk about the plot points that made me avoid this movie for 5 years?
SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER
We start with the romance, not the crime, which tells us the priorities of the film. It’s close, but while the criminal stuff is important, it’s in the film to support the romance, no the other way round. John Abraham, with tattoos and a knit cap and a tank top, chases down a scuzzy drug dealer and beats him up. And then notices that little Genelia is walking a little girl out of the school where she works across the street and watching him in shock.
The point isn’t that John can beat up a bad guy, it’s what happens when his violence and focus meets Genelia’s fresh eyes and hopefulness. In a bigger sense, the film is about the police versus the public, as shown through men versus women. Of the 4 main cops, 3 of them are married. Their wives are part of their lives, they know what they do for a living, the details of their cases, everything else. They aren’t just sitting at home praying and talking about the kids. But, they react differently. They don’t take it as seriously, and they remind their husband’s of the bigger picture, that while the case is important, so is living your life and planning and hoping for a future.
Really, it’s not about men and women, it’s about the kind of personality that becomes a cop (or a member of the “force”, tying it all back to the title!) and the people who are their connection to the regular society. You could have the same thing with reversed genders, and I think Mardaani and Baby and D-Day kind of did that with their female heroine’s? (I haven’t seen all those movies straight through, let me know if I got it wrong)
Anyway, in the opening of the film, at the same time that John is being assigned to a new task force to go after drug dealers, with hot hot Mohnish Behl as his superior, and the young Ameet Gaur as the new kid in the program, and Kamlesh Sawant as the humorous seen everything guy, he is also slowly getting caught up in a relationship with Genelia against his will. He notices her watching when he is beating up that guy, but just looks at her and doesn’t know what to say. Later, he sees her at the mall and tries to ignore her, but when he notices a fallen earring, he goes after her to ask if it is hers. Genelia assumes it is a line, and John is too shy and serious to know how to respond. Finally, Genelia and her friend are stopped at a police line, as John is passing, and he is able to rescue them by using his authority as an inspector. Finally, Genelia understands him.
It could be your standard meet cute, but it isn’t just some contrived plot thing, it comes naturally out of their personalities. John is very serious and dedicated to his job. In every area of life, he doesn’t feel as comfortable. So when he tried to approach Genelia in private life, he didn’t know what to do. But once she moved into his police area, suddenly he was able to talk to her and reveal himself a little.
And from Genelia’s side, as we come to learn, she is someone who always sees the best in people, who is always happy and doesn’t like to waste time (possibly because her parents had died when she was young?). So once she sees John as he really is, serious and slow to open up, but with a core of decency and concern for others, she trusts him immediately, and is already a little in love.
Genelia makes the next few moves, asking John’s help with a problem one of her students is having, going up to say hi and thank you when she sees him later, inviting him to go with her on a day trip to the country, etc. etc. But John responds in his own way, being immediately willing to help her when she asks and going a little above and beyond in how he does it. Rushing her to the hospital when she gets into an accident on the way to meet him. Sending her flowers and going to sit in her living room and make awkward conversation while she recovers.
What is really lovely about this romance is that they are two such different people, but they are able to understand each other. John gets that Genelia is a bubbly outgoing person, but she is capable of deep feelings and she really does care for him. And Genelia gets that John is stiff and uncomfortable around women, but just him showing up and being there, no matter how stiff he is, and listening to her babble on and on, means he really does care.
What’s also lovely is that the crime story line that is going on at the same time doesn’t feel like John is a totally different person in it. He is still a “still waters run deep” kind of guy, whether it is getting angry at the last minute during an arrest, or suddenly proposing out of no where. And just as he respects hot hot Mohnish Behl at work, he respects his advice in his personal life as well.
Also nice, Mukesh Rishi! I LOVE him! He usually gets stuck playing the bad guy, like he is here, but the first two movies I saw him in were Run, where he plays the adorably supportive Jeejaji, and Sarfarosh, where he is the honest cop. So I always have a warm feeling for him, even in movies like this where he is the super bad guy.
Or, is he that bad? I mean yes, he is. But the movie is interesting a little gray about right and wrong between cops and bad guys. Mukesh’s little brother, martial arts guy from the southern industries Vidyut Jamwal, arrives back in Bombay. And they seem sincerely loving towards each other, even though they are also terrible people. And then John shoots Mukesh for “resisting arrest” while Vidyut watches. It doesn’t justify what Vidyut does for revenge, but it also isn’t really the right thing for them to have done. Vidyut’s grief is sincere, and unnecessary. Hot hot Mohnish Behl writes up John and the gang for excessive force (there’s that word again!), and they don’t complain about it, because they know he was at least a little right.
But then Ameet Gaur and his wife are brutally tortured and killed in their home. And all the rules go out the window, even hot hot Mohnish Behl (really, he is always super hot, but the grey at the temples just brings it to a whole new level! Highlights his deep Nutan eyes) is okay with them going outside the bounds and just straight up hunting down and killing people.
But all of that is a sideline, it’s just there to cause complications for the romance. And to ask the bigger question, should men who have this violent and dangerous quest in life try to make a connection and fall in love? On the other hand, is their violent and dangerous life even more of a reason to live every day to the fullest? That’s the real debate of the film, is it right to turn away from love? Is it wrong? Is it even possible?
I think the end of the film decides that it isn’t possible to close out love. It can lead to tragedy, but that doesn’t mean you can stop it. Or that the loved ones who are destroyed would even what to stop it. Sandhya Mridul is kidnapped while John and Genelia are on their honeymoon.
Hot hot Mohnish Behl loves her too much, and is willing to do anything to save her, so he gives up John and Genelia’s location. Genelia and Sandhya are now both kidnapped, and Mohnish is sent to finish off John in the hospital. But he can’t do it, not because he feels guilty about breaking the law, but because he is torn by his love for John and his love for Sandhya. And once John learns what is going on, he forgives Mohnish instantly because he also loves Sandhya more than any concern for the law or the police force or anything abstract.
So far, this is all fine! Sandhya and Genelia could be rescued, everything could end happily. According to the usual rules of action movies, the heroes will do everything perfectly and it will all work out in the end. Only, this movie doesn’t follow the rules. It doesn’t say “yes, no matter what, your sins and flaws will be forgiven and everything will be perfect and there was nothing to worry about.” Mohnish turned his back on everything to save his wife, only to find her hanging from a ceiling fan once they break in to rescue her, giving him the only possible escape of shooting himself in his pretty pretty grey temples. John finds Genelia again, just to see her be shot in front of him and die in his arms. And only then does he manage to capture the bad guy.
But it’s not about capturing the bad guy, it’s about losing everything in your quest, making any victory hallow. It’s about the very end of the film, when John goes back into his job, still living his life like before, but says good-bye to his photo of Genelia as he goes, telling her he will be home late. He is still carrying that lightness and hope and love that she brought into his life within himself.