Finaly Dhoom review! Which brings me to the most important question of our time: John or Hrithik or Aamir???? Who is the best and/or hottest villain of the Dhoom series?
Dhoom 3! The biggest craziest STUPIDEST Dhoom. Really, so dumb! All the little things that were kind of “say what now?” in all the earlier ones (like, for instance, exactly how Uday is attached to the Indian police and why the Indian police are investigating international crimes) is brought to the ultimate dumb-dumb-dumb peak in this film. Which isn’t to say the film as a whole is stupid. It’s a smartly made dumb movie. Although not as smartly-dumb as it could be.
Not a brilliantly made dumb movie (I think Bang Bang, Qurbani, even Dhoom 2, are more entertaining and better put together), but smart. The pacing burbles along, the songs are placed well, and the casting/characters are perfect. The big picture has no flaws, this kind of genre embraces stupid twists and surprises. But the little picture is a challenge, the pacing gets off, and so does the tone, as we get into the second half. That exact recipe of comedy-romance-song-action-drama tends a little too much towards the “Drama” side of things. But that’s the advantage of a film this BIG. Even if the action and songs get less time overall, they are so spectacular and memorable that they can still carry the film.
Let’s put cards on the table, this movie has an Aamir problem. He’s amazing and brilliant, but he is also a little intense. And his character ends up overshadowing Katrina, Abhishek, and Uday. Aamir is a bigger star and a better actor, really better at everything, versus the other three. But for the health of the movie, we need the light touch and grounding of Abhishek, and wacky comedy of Uday, and the sweet sexiness of Katrina. That’s what made the two previous Dhooms so special, especially Dhoom 2, that each star brought their own thing to the movie and the swirl of it all together is what made the film work. In this movie, the Masala couldn’t really flow as much, because Abhishek and Uday never got a chance to put in their voices. They didn’t even get a song!
Writing this review now in 2019, the obvious film to compare it with is Thugs of Hindostan, same creative team and much of the same cast. Purely in terms of film construction and character and narrative (not talking about sets or costumes or that kind of thing), Dhoom 3 is way way better. Aamir takes over the film a bit, but his character is inarguably the lead of Dhoom 3, the whole story is about him and driven by him. It’s not like Thugs where it feels as though there are whole other scenes that explain plot points which we are missing because instead we are watching the minor character of Aamir do another comic bit. But still Dhoom 3 isn’t the absolute peak of stupid fun it could be.
Imagine if Abhishek had a solid subplot about his home life to spin in and provide comic relief in the middle of all the drama, or if the Katrina romance and character had been built up as much as Hrithik-Aish romance in Dhoom 2. It would feel like a true comic-romance-action-drama film, instead of slanting so heavily in the action-drama direction. Which also means the action-drama stuff would have been stronger. That’s the whole idea of the Masala film, or the Rasa drama theory, that the varying flavors serve to bring each other out and make them stronger. This is still a great masala film, but it’s a bit like bad butter chicken when all you taste is tomato and salt, instead of the whole collection of flavors bringing each other out.
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This is a plot that is surprisingly simple when you strip out the twists. Years earlier, Jackie Shroff tried to build a “Great Indian Circus” and borrowed money from the Western Bank of Chicago (not a real bank) to make it happen. The bank called back the loan, Jackie was heart broken and killed himself. Years later, a mysterious thief keeps taking money from the bank at the same time that Aamir Khan, brilliant performer, is putting together his “Great Indian Circus”. The thief leaves something written in Hindi behind, so Abhishek and Uday are called in from India to help with the case. Uday promptly gets a crush on the random white woman assigned to work with them. At the same time, Aamir hires Katrina (odd gymnast/dancer) to be the lead of his show. Uday and Abhishek come close to catching Aamir but can’t figure out how he got away, especially after they shot him, and still managed to give a show the next night. But then, Abhishek hides and witnesses the reveal that there are TWO AAMIRS!!!!! One of them is brilliant and focused and angry, the other is sweet and innocent, they never revealed the truth so they could use the secret in their act, a second Aamir appearing from thin air as needed. And the sweet and innocent one is in love with Katrina, bringing in the first rift between the brothers. Abhishek follows the innocent one and befriends him, hoping to get him to turn on the other Aamir. With his encouragement, the innocent Aamir goes on a date with Katrina and she kisses him. But Abhishek is getting closer and closer to them. They just barely escape, but Abhishek tracks them down and brings Katrina with him, to try and convince the innocent Aamir to turn on the other Aamir. Instead, the other Aamir jumps to his death and the innocent Aamir grabs his hand, and jumps too, both of them falling to their death united.
Okay, let’s look at this in terms of Masala. Uday and Abhishek have a great light comic touch right from their first scene, an over the top rickshaw chase in India complete with flying chickens and falling down walls and all of that. Good! The comedy continues with Uday’s crush, which is kind of a lame source of comedy but okay. And that adds an extra pungency to Abhishek’s turn to the serious, creating a fake character and befriending Aamir and coming to sincerely care about him. All good!
And then there is the Katrina romance, which adds another dimension to the brother relationship, and a kind of a beautiful happiness to certain points of the film. It brings out something more to the drama moments, knowing that Innocent Aamir feels this for her while he is talking with Abhishek, or fighting with his brother. And it gives an extra layer to the songs beyond simple “Spectacle”.
Action sequences, in the first half of the film are perfect. We have the first chase scene that goes up buildings and under water and all over in just an insane and fun way. And remember, in the middle of that first chase, we also have a few moments of light comedy from Uday and Abhishek, it’s not all action-action-action. The next chase, a bit repetitive, but also short and clear. And then the third chase, I completely lose track of what is happening. Which is a very bad sign, because these chases are in Chicago which I know like the back of my hand. The first two, I could follow the whole route in my head and understand who was where when (fun tip, the Chinatown water taxi takes the same river route as Aamir, if you are ever in Chicago and feel the need to recreate the water chase and then get Chinese food, you should do it). But the last one, it had too many edits and too much up and down and not enough memorable moments. Plus, there was just an audience exhaustion at that point, too much action for too long for us to fully keep our attention.
And then there was the DRAMA. The first half of the film was maybe too undramatic. And that’s the fault of the script, we had the opening flashback to their childhood, and then suddenly we have a fun action scene, and comic bits with Abhishek and Uday. This is where I wanted Abhishek to have a fight with his wife over the phone or something. It doesn’t have to be a lot of drama, just give us something to hold on to with these characters before Aamir shows up. And then suddenly we are thrown into the second half and it is all drama, all the time. Brothers fighting and making up, Abhishek feeling feelings for innocent Aamir, the racheting up stress as we wonder if they will be caught or not, and so on and so on. Coming right to the end moment, when we wonder if Innocent Aamir will choose his new love Katrina and his new friend Abhishek, or will jump with his brother.
It’s just TOO MUCH DRAMA!!! All at once! I saw this movie a bunch of times in theaters (because of the Chicago connection, everyone wanted to see it with me, even my Grandpa), and it works great in theaters. If you are seeing the action scenes on the big screen and have the energy of the crowd around you, and the gasps from the newbies at the twin reveal, it’s all good. But I’ve discovered it doesn’t work at all on DVD or streaming. When I’ve tried to watch it or show it to people, I end up just fast-forwarding to the best bits. The drama ends up being boring after a well, there is sort of emotional numbness that sets in. The ending is less tragic, and more a relief to just be done with all that angst.
Compared to Dhoom 2, where the Hrithik-Aish angst built up slowly after a lot of real silliness. And where Abhishek-Bips-Uday provided a relief from it, it was as much their story as Hrithik-Aish’s. And therefore the ending gave you first that little breath catch of “oh, no!” without stopping your heart and driving you into misery, and the final reveal gave you a happy ending and sent you out with a smile. Sure, scene by scene Dhoom 2 is ridiculous, and no one is going to say that Hrithik and Aish put in amazing performances, or had characters that made any kind of sense, or any of the rest of it. But it is far more endlessly re-watchable and just happy than Dhoom 3. Aamir’s perfect performance, deep characters, that whole thing, ends up making the movie worse somehow. It’s just too good for this kind of a film. To go back to the Masala idea, it’s like taking a bunch of delicious cheap jalabis, and pouring the most expensive rare chocolate on top. Yes, it’s really good chocolate, but it is overwhelming the flavor of the jalabis and ultimately cheap weak chocolate just sprinkled on would be better.