This is a very silly, very fun, very stupid movie. It may not be as brilliant and complex as some other films, but by golly the time just flies by while you are watching it! Oh, and this review needs some formatting fixes, I’ll do it soon, I just want to throw it up quick now before I take the dog for a walk.
This movie does very very well by its leads. John Abraham and Varun Dhawan get plenty of opportunities to smile at the camera and make little winky faces and generally be super charming and attractive and movie star like. And they get characters that perfectly match their particular styles, Varun playing kind of a silly young rookie type, John playing a cynical older tough guy type with a history. I can definitely see that Varun’s brother wrote and directed this movie for him, and that John had some very good reasons to choose to be in it.
Jacqueline, not so much. I mean, her character is fine, and she does a nice job with it, but I don’t really see this moving her career to another level or anything. It’s too bad, I really liked her in Brothers, and she was the best actress in Housefull 3 (not hard, considering her co-stars were Nargis and Lisa Haydon). But I guess she must have known what she was getting into, I’m sure she got a nice paycheck and got to hang out with cool people. And it was nice to have someone a little more substantial and confident onscreen play this action movie heroine kind of part, instead of the usual flavor-of-the-month pretty face.
(I’m still mad at Shruti Haasan for being so terrible in Gabbar is Back)
And then there’s Saqib Saleem, who wasn’t promoted that much, but is basically the 4th lead of the film. He’s fine I guess, cute, sweet, comfortable delivering dialogue. But mostly I was watching it thinking “who is this guy? Why is someone I don’t recognize at all playing this pivotal role?” I guess it kind of worked, since he was supposed to be kind of the every man innocent victim type, so having someone who didn’t make you immediately think “movie star! He’s a movie star!” worked out okay. But it was kind of a huge leap for him, from little Y Films things like Mere Dad ki Maruti and art movies like Hawaa Hawaai all the way up to a big budget big star action movie. Although I guess we all have to start somewhere, and this must have been his chance to make a mark in a big film.
Oh, and Akshaye! I LOOOOOOOVE Akshaye! Especially in a villain role! He just has so much fun with delivering threats like they are jokes and jokes like they are threats, and doing the Khanna lean over everyone. I just realized, his Dad used to kind of lean like that over his co-stars. Only, his Dad was usually considerably taller than his co-stars, whereas Akshaye is just kind of average height, so I don’t know why he does the lean thing. Otherwise, though, I love him. He seems to have given up completely on being a “hero” type and embraced character roles, this part isn’t even “cool” evil, it’s just sort of silly evil. And he seems much more comfortable doing these kinds of parts than he ever did when he tried to play the straight up hero.
(Although I still haven’t seen Doli Saja Ke Rakhna, and I understand he does a great job with the hero part in that)
And then there are ten million cameos! The other Akshay, Nargis (blech! My 3rd Nargis movie of the summer! Why does she keep torturing me with her “acting”?), Parineeti, Vijay Raaz, and someone I am pretty sure was Sonu Sood but it wasn’t promoted so maybe not. I kind of like the cameos as part of the bigger theme of the movie, that the middle east has become a new Indian outpost. In this carefully unnamed city/country, Varun is a cop, Nargis is a wealthy local, Akshay is a local millionaire playboy, Vijay Raaz is an informer, Akshaye is a local bad guy, the Indians are everywhere!
I don’t know if this is the first year Hindi film has really gone after the middle east market, or just the first time I’ve started noticing it, but oh my goodness, this movie really really went after it! It created this whole world of Indians abroad, showing their shops and houses and parties, everything. And it stayed within that world the whole time, I mean, it wasn’t like Happy New Year where our “heroes” came from India to Dubai and then went home again. Varun really is a citizen of where ever this is and he stays there at the end.
Or, maybe not? The film, in a small way, is trying to resolve that same NRI identity crisis that Adi was dealing with in DDLJ, what makes somebody “Indian”? Varun is introduced as the local who can help John find the bad guys, because he was born and brought up here, he is fluent in the language and knows how to get around and who all the powerful figures are and so on and so on. But then at the same time, at one point he talks about being excited to work on this case because it is a chance for him to do something real, working for “desh”. So, does he mean “desh” like India, or “desh” like this is his first big case as a police officer for this nameless non-Indian country? Is it saying that Indians have made their home overseas and built their own unique community there, or is it saying that their home is still India and always will be? Or, am I thinking about this way more than the filmmakers ever did? I think probably the last.
(KIND OF SMALL NOT REALLY SPOILER BECAUSE YOU COULD GUESS THIS PART) Speaking of over thinking, as you can probably tell from the promo photos, Akshay’s character is gay. If this were an American movie, he would get into all kinds of trouble for playing a stereotype and so on and so on. But that’s just putting American morals and standards onto a different culture. For an Indian movie, I find it super exciting to have a major macho action star like Akshay being willing to make fun of himself like that, being seen as openly gay onscreen. Heck, even having an openly gay character in a big budget wide release film is awesome! Especially one who is brave and helpful and powerful, not weak and evil.
(note the man-bun)
But at it’s core, this is just a fun silly movie. Nothing wrong with that! It plows ahead without stopping, hitting the character beats it needs in the most efficient manner possible, zipping the central mystery along without much concern for logic or point A leading to point B, changing scenes about every 5 minutes so we never get tired of the exotic setting, and giving us plenty of ridiculous action scenes and nice male beefcake, in case we get bored.
Basically, it’s a Dhoom rip off. Only, instead of the deep and emotional storyline going to the ever changing villain while the two leads handle the comic relief, the villain is kind of silly here too. So, there really is no deep and emotional storyline. It’s all just 2 hours and ten minutes of silly silly escapism. Which, on a hot July Saturday, isn’t the worst thing in the world!
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
We start with an opening credits tough guy cool guy rap song. Very similar to Dus. And, like Dus, this opening credits title song is one of the highlights of the film.
Song over, cool in medias res opening time! A guy in a fancy non-Indian police uniform is creeping around hallways and through doors in one of those darkly lit with dripping water places that are always in abundance in action movies and which I have never seen in real life. He is talking on a headset to other people, saying he found the place. But he walks over to the chair, and lifts up the jacket sitting on it, saying “Viraj is gone, just his jacket is left.” And the camera zooms in on the back of the jacket with “Viraj” written across it, and then zooms out again to show the jacket on someone’s back as he walks across a cricket field.
And, cricket! We are watching a cricket match in a carefully unidentified Middle East country. India is playing Sri Lanka, and if they win, they will go to the finals against Pakistan. Very exciting! The “top batsman”, Viraj, is coming up. He hits the ball, and then runs, and slides, but hurts himself. A doctor is called on to the field to check, he is helped off, the coach rushes up and says that if he hurt himself, he shouldn’t play in the rest of the series. Saqib Saleem (Viraj) says that it is just a dislocated shoulder, he had this before in the last series, he knows how to fix it. And then he screams and throws himself against the wall. And I think “Hey! This was in Lethal Weapon 2! At some point in the film, this ability to dislocate and relocate his shoulder is going to pay off like Chekov’s gun!”
Oh, and then he wins the match. Yaaaaaaay. But, the next day, he’s not at practice! The coach is worried, because he is a good kid who never misses curfew or practice. The coach calls the sports minister who calls not-Sonia Gandhi who is the home minister? The Prime Minister? Something. I wasn’t clear on it. Anyway, she gets the call and just when she starts to get worried, she sees an email in her inbox labeled “Important! Click this!” And she actually clicks it! That is such blatant spam, I’m surprised it even got through her filter!
Although, in this case, it isn’t actually spam, but a video file of a guy in a dirty Pakistan jersey in that same dripping water/dimly lit room we saw at the beginning. He is chanting “Pakistan! Pakistan! Pakistan!” and there is a figure tied up on a chair next to him. He tells the camera that he is a Pakistan fan, and he has Viraj, and he wants the match to happen anyway, or else he will kill Viraj. What to do?!?!? Not-Sonia says that before they cancel the match, she is going to send her handpicked person over to not-Saudi Arabia to help find and rescue Viraj.
Bam! John Abraham! He is introduced kicking a guy out of an elevator. The guy flies towards the camera, and then John Abraham steps off. And the guy says “All I did was ask you not to smoke!” Okay, is smoking no longer injurious to my health? Or have the censor rules changed? Or is it just that I am getting a different print in America than I would in India? Because they smoke SO MUCH in this movie, and I never got a little warning message on the screen! Which of course meant that I had an over-whelming urge to smoke and have already become an addict, a mere 24 hours after seeing the film (not really).
(I suppose it could also be an in joke about John being in No Smoking. But did enough people see/know about that movie to even make the joke worth while?)
So, John gets off the elevator, all cool, and is talking to a friend on a cell phone. The friend is a customs agent or something? He has a nice white uniform, that’s all I know. They seem close, and joke about taking bullets for each other the last time they worked together in that manly way action heroes do. And John says that he is going to go visit some woman, I want to say Amisha? Some name that starts with an “A”. And his buddy is all “good idea! About time you made time for her!” John knocks on “Amisha’s” door, she answers and invites him in. She is in a bathrobe, and he comes straight back to her bedroom, so clearly they are intimate. He is smoking again, she asks him to stop as those cigarettes will kill him (maybe that’s why we didn’t get the warning? Because they put it in the dialogue instead?). John gets up and goes into the bathroom to throw the cigarette in the toilet, and looks at the seat, which is raised. And then notices the fog on the bathroom mirror.
He comes back out and asks “Where is he?” Amisha is all “huh? wha? who?” John reminds her he is a cop and goes through his evidence, raised toilet seat, recently used shower, her hair is dry, clearly there is a man hiding in the apartment. Now, I don’t know what Amisha’s routine is, but there are totally reasons my apartment might have a fogged bathroom mirror and a raised toilet seat even if I have dry hair! What if she just shaved her legs, but didn’t wash her hair? What if she was cleaning the toilet? I think John really needs more evidence here.
But, of course, he is the hero of the movie so he is right in all his conclusions (this is not the last time he will make a huge leap and be correct). He threatens to shoot into the cupboard, where he is sure the guy is hiding, and his friend in the nice white uniform falls out! Thus justifying the uniform, since the audience can recognize him by that much more easily than by his face that we just caught a glimpse of. And then John moves his gun a fraction, and shoots the photo of him and Amisha in happier times. And then he gets a call from not-Sonia, ordering him directly to not-Saudi Arabia.
John lands in not-Saudi Arabia in a fancy green colored private jet. He strolls off, and let’s some guys in uniform pat and wand him down (which also gives the audience a chance to admire his physique in his tight fitting clothes). Some guy in a fancy cops uniform greets him and takes him to a black car with white Arab script on the side and a logo with crossed rifles on the front. It looks sooooooooooooooo much cooler than the cop cars in America!
The guys in the front seat of the car want to take him to check in at the police station first, and they ask him not to smoke. But in the middle of telling him what to do, the driver suddenly stops talking, and the camera swings around to show us that John has pulled his gun and is holding it to his head and ordering him to drive directly to the hotel room where Viraj was staying, and that he will be smoking the entire time. Wait, where did he get the gun? Wasn’t he just wanded down at the airport? Is it the driver’s gun? Did he steal it? It definitely wasn’t in his luggage, because he didn’t have any luggage, he just had a cool guy response when they asked about it, “I have deodorant in my pocket.”
Hotel room, blah blah. It’s a nice hotel, I really want to visit whatever country this is. Anyway, while they are looking at the hotel room, they get word from headquarters that there is video of Viraj getting into someone’s car.
(This hotel! Which also solves the “where did this film?” question, it’s in Abu Dhabi)
Back at headquarters, John is watching the footage and also complaining about his “partner” in the local forces, saying he doesn’t need a partner, he just needs a guide to help him get around. Which is when Varun conveniently pops his head in the door, telling the chief that he picked up his groceries, dropped off the kids at school, and took his wife shopping. It’s fate! This is the perfect kid to be John’s partner who just shuts up and drives him around! John asks a couple of quick questions about him so we get the backstory for Varun’s character. He was born and raised in whatever country this is, speaks Hindi and Arabic, and is a fresh rookie who doesn’t even know how to find a dog, let alone solve a big case. Literally, he has been trying for 2 months to find a dog, that was his first case and he still hasn’t solved it. But he has high hopes that he will one day!
John says that Varun is perfect, and sends him out to get the car for them. Varun leaves, and while John keeps talking to his superior (who is very doubtful of his abilities), we see Varun through the glass high fiving and celebrating with his co-workers that he finally got a real case! In my non-spoiler review, I talked about how it is a great role for Varun, and this is what I mean. He gets to play the inexperienced rookie who is cheerful and willing and everyone kind of likes in spite of themselves. Which fits very well with his particular onscreen presence, but also is a nice meta-statement on where he is in his career, especially his career as an action star, versus John. Varun is the kid who is still just starting out but is willing to try hard, and John is the experienced older guy who can show him the ropes of how to be an action hero.
John gets in the car, with Varun driving, to the address of the witness who was driving the car Viraj got into. And, Yo Yo! Varun in listening to “One Bottle Down”! This is such a t-series movie, they are really cross-promoting their music library like crazy. Not that I’m complaining, I love Yo Yo. John, however, does not. Or at least his character doesn’t. He punches the car stereo to turn it off. Varun objects, asks what’s wrong with “Yo Yo, Mika Bhai?” John says he only likes classical, “Mohammed Rafi”.
They arrive at the fancy class house building where their witness is, and it’s Nargis Fakhri! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! The HORROR!!!!! I thought after Azhar and Housefull 3, I was finally done with her, at least for a few months! She is just as sexualized and terrible at acting as ever, coming out of a swimming pool in this odd black bikini with strange strings all over strangling her body. And Varun keeps looking at her breasts, while John stays all business and asks about the night before.
(totally forgot Nargis was in a movie with Varun before! And last time, she was the one in love/lust, while he was the one who didn’t care)
This scene is mostly terrible, thanks to Nargis’ “acting”, but there was a bit at the end that I liked. John shows her a series of photos on his phone, all serious and business like. Nargis doesn’t recognize any of them. And then Varun asks to show her another photo, and pulls out a polaroid of a dog. Because he is still on that case!
Oh, and Nargis gives them a description, which we see in flashback, of the events of the evening as she knows them. She bumped into Viraj in the lobby of his hotel, asked for a selfie to send to her best friend who is his huge fan, and offered to let him drive her car when he admired it. While he was driving the car, she mentioned that she was on the way to her friends birthday party, and it would be wonderful if he could stop in and say “hi”, it would make her night. So they stop in at fancy party with drinks and music and beautiful people, and just as I am thinking “why is it always the gorgeous female fans who show up in these scenes? Why do we never see a movie star or cricket hero be stopped by a less attractive fan?” Nargis’ friend pops up, and it is a cheerful shorter heavier woman! She hugs Nargis, who really is her best friend, and gives Viraj some advice on how to beat Pakistan in the next match. Viraj takes it nicely, because he is the perfect nice Indian boy, and refuses a drink, because ditto, and then says he will wait out front for Nargis to take him home. Only, when Nargis got out, he was already gone, so someone must have picked him up.
John and Varun leave Nargis, and John asks what is going on, because they are supposed to be tracking Viraj’s stolen phone and wallet, only the first step should be to interview the victim (Viraj), not the witness. John tells him the truth, that Viraj is missing, and Varun declares that in that case the only option is to visit “Uncle Bond”. At least, that’s what the subtitles say, it’s really “chacha something”, but I didn’t catch what the “something” is. Anyway, it’s Vijay Raaz. Such an odd career, Vijay has had! You know, I still run into people in America who call him their “favorite Indian actor” just based on Monsoon Wedding. It would shock them to know that now he plays the interesting comic/threatening character in big budget action movies.\
(Also, Delhi Belly! I’m not saying I don’t like a lot of Vijay Raaz’s movies, they just aren’t what you would really expect if you had only seen Monsoon Wedding.)
Vijay and Varun greet each other warmly, clearly they have known each other for a while, but when John gets all threatening with him and pulls a gun to get answers, Varun gets a dozen guns pulled on him by a bunch of suddenly appearing henchgoons. But then he says something in Arabic, and everyone relaxes and smiles. Vijay says to John “It’s okay, it’s okay, I didn’t realize your girlfriend had just cheated on you.” And Varun smiles and John and shrugs and says “sorry, I read the messages on your phone.” Huh! Another sign that Varun is a better detective than he appears!
Vijay directs them towards a local playboy who just posted a selfie from last night with Viraj as their next clue. And he indicates that the playboy might be more interested in boys than girls. So, off we go to a pool party! Varun and John walk through a luxery pool area, surrounded by a fair number of attractive young white women AND men, all wearing the absolute minimum. They finally reach a pool, where Akshay Kumar comes zooming out, on a riding boat, with a manbun and a kilt. In glorious slow motion. Flanked by two hunky silent white men in tiny swimming trunks. I LOVE IT!
Okay, so this whole next sequence, has Akshay acting atrociously, leering at the two men, and forcing them to strip to their underwear and get in the pool before he will talk to them. On the one hand, it’s a horrible stereotype of the predatory gay man. But on the other hand, it is the exact same behavior that we would usually see from this kind of character (the wealthy dissolute playboy witness who the cops visit at his pool) towards women. So, I love the gender flip, inviting the audience both within and without the film to admire and objectify the male body. And, I also love that a mainstream Indian action movie is including an unapologetically gay character. Plus, it’s not even like our “heroes” are disgusted by him! There is no “gay panic” on display. They don’t want to strip down to their underwear, but not because they feel threatened, just because it is an inconvenience. And when Akshay offers to give them a ride back to the police station, John hopes on to the back of his bike and hangs on with no embarrassment. Oh, and during this whole sequence, a new remix of “Tu Mera Hero” from Desi Boyz keeps playing. Remember, T-Series is in movie production now! Every film is an oppurtunity to help sell their back catalogue.
(See, they are checking each other out, not embarrassed! Also, they comment within the film about the coincidence of them both wearing the same kind of underwear)
I think this is when we meet our heroine? Yes, that’s right, they just tracked Viraj’s phone to an address in the city. John and a bunch of commandos force their way into the apartment, lots of guns and macho hand gestures. They see a video game going on the TV, and John shoots the TV. But the miss the resident, who jumps out a window and runs down the street. It’s Jacqueline! In stupid stupid overalls. They are loose and normal and comfortable, except the enter front of the thigh area is torn out. Why? It’s not even sexy (at least, that I can see), it’s just a random hole.
Jacqueline is running, running, and Varun doesn’t see her and opens his car door just in time for her to plow into it. A moment later, all the cops come pouring out of the building and congratulate him, and Varun goes with it and tells them he could clearly tell she was a suspect, so he punched her in the face!
In a nice sign that John has already gotten close to Varun, he waits until they are alone, and then asks, “What really happened?” And Varun folds pretty immediately and explains he just opened the door at the right moment. Aw, John understands him but is protecting his dignity in front of others1 And, aw, Varun is telling him the truth even when he lies to everyone else!
Interrogation! They start by going through everything they found on Jacqueline, including 3 fake passports, and a ton of cell phones and wallets, so clearly she is just a thief, not involved in anything bigger. She says that she stole it at a convenience store the night before, and can definitely remember the guys face. Only, when she starts to describe it, she keeps saying it looked “like John Abraham”. Clearly, she has a crush on him. And also, good! The poor man needs a good woman.
I’m going to be rapidly skipping through the next few scenes, they are more about moving the plot along than anything interesting. Jacqueline takes them to the convenience store, where they pull footage and discover the guy had his face hidden the whole time, so they still don’t know who he is. Oh, and the guy running the convenience store is desi too, which just adds to the overall sense of this large Indian community in not-Saudi Arabia, which is interesting. When they leave the store, Varun suddenly says “There he is!” and takes off running, leaping over cars and so on. He finally corners his suspect in a dump, and says “I’ve got you now!”. And then we cut to John running up behind him, gun pulled, just in time to see an adorable little bulldog playing with a beaten up teddy bear. So cute! And also, a nice laugh moment, because Varun has now solved his first case.
And John has solved this case too, he is pretty sure he knows what happened. I think? Anyway, we get a massive flashback showing exactly what happened that night based on absolutely no data that I can see which would have told them anything. Viraj was waiting in front of the house, after taking the selfie with Akshay, when the scary guy who’s cell phone Jacqueline stole comes up next to him and says “I’ve been following you all night, waiting for a chance”. And then he shows him a gun and insists he get in the car. Viraj gets in the car and is handed a sleep mask to put on. Oh good! So they aren’t planning to kill him! He is taken to a basement, where a figure in a mask talks to him, and I totally recognize Akshaye Khanna’s voice. The masked figure says they need him to throw the match tomorrow and they will pay him, or else kill him. Viraj agrees, and they let him go in an empty parking lot. Huh! That was unexpected!
But then! Viraj is trying to get out of the lot, when he sees a figure in a local police uniform. He runs up and taps him on the shoulder, and it’s Akshaye! What a clever plan! Both within the film, to find out if Viraj will talk to the first cop he sees, and on the part of the filmmakers to get Akshaye into a cool looking uniform. Akshaye plays it really well, being all shocked at this story, and worried about being out of his depth, so he takes Viraj straight to his “captain’s house.” Only, once Viraj is sitting in the basement, he recognizes the sound of the washer (why is it still going? What kind of a freaky long cycle is this, that goes through a whole kidnapping, release, and re-kidnapping?) and figures out what is happening. Not that it does him any good, Akshaye easily subdues him and he is all kidnapped again, to be kept until he agrees to throw the game. They can’t just kill him, which would be the obvious solution, because then the game would be canceled and the bets wouldn’t go through.
Back in present day land, Varun delivers the dog, and then goes back to headquarters, where they have new info! They have isolated the sound on the video, and can now hear water in the background. Varun identifies it as rain, the commander rejects that since it doesn’t rain here, but John backs Varun up (awwww!) and has him search for any rain in any nearby areas in the past 24 hours. And there is a nice Lagaan joke here (I love slams on Lagaan!), with Varun saying “if the villagers had this app, they wouldn’t have needed to sing to the clouds all the time.” And John comes back, “if they had this app, they could make so much money they could have just paid the taxes instead of playing cricket.”
(My favorite Lagaan joke! It’s a movie that just takes itself soooooooo seriously, it’s impossible to resist ribbing it a little)
With the rain app, they narrow it down to a certain area, and then look for large abandoned spaces. They land on an amusement park. Seriously, where is this thing filmed? Because I want to go there! Amusement park, really nice hotel, pool parties hosted by nice gay playboys, it looks awesome! At the park, chase scene! A guy on a four wheeler comes barreling out of no where, but it’s okay, because there is a tiny race track attraction and John and Varun can just steal rides from there. Chase chase chase, race race race, they finally catch him, just as we cut over to another cop who is finding the room where the ransom video was made and seeing only Viraj’s jacket. Hey! That’s the opening of the movie! And, INTERVAL
Post interval goes much faster, a lot more action scenes where I can just say “action action action”. They are interrogating the suspect, only in the middle of terrifying him, they watch the rest of the video on the camera they found, and he’s an actor! He kept saying “Pakistan Pakistan Pakistan” in that creepy way at the beginning because he kept forgetting his lines and saying something else instead of Pakistan. He also gives a great meta explanation to the masked figure in the chair who is giving him the script, that he has a hard time with this role because he usually plays “positive” characters and it is hard to play a “negative” role. Which is a nice little commentary on Akshaye in this! Well, except that Akshaye has actually played a fair number of negative roles by now. But still, he did start as a “hero.”
(Akshaye also used to have hair. Many things have changed since the 90s. But not Madhuri, she’s still awesome)
Varun comes rushing in to stop the interrogation (which has already involved John picking the guy up and throwing him right into the observation window, which doesn’t break, against all odds). Varun gives the guy a drink of water and is all considerate and sensitive and manages to get from him the cell phone number he has for the guy who hired him and then locked him up in that room after they shot the video.
Cell phone is tracked, and gosh darn it, the guy is in Abuddin! Which is a made-up place that is the sworn enemy of this first made-up place. So the police have no jurisdiction and no hope of getting the guy out. Jacqueline claims she knows how to get in, but everyone ignores her. John objects to this and storms off. Varun objects also, and hands in his badge and gun, saying that no one else believed in him, but John did, and as soon as he met him, he felt like a real cop, even solving his first case. And now he has a chance to do something not just for his job, but for “desh”, and he’s not going to stop! He storms out and finds John leaning up against their car and tells him he is with him. John offers him a cigarette. My goodness, they are really enjoying this new “no censorship of smoking” policy! Cigarettes are right back to their usual position as signifiers of being cool, and manly emotion! Varun takes a puff, and then says that of course they will have to get a car. Since he just quite and doesn’t have a car or gun any more. John takes the cigarette back and says “Well, what good are you then!” Always two steps forward, one step back with this guy.
Back in another interrogation room, the local cop guy is talking to Jacqueline, offering her hot chocolate (why would you want hot chocolate in the middle east? Unless the a/c is turned down really really low?), and revealing that he knows her whole history. After her mother died and her father remarried, she got into drugs, was sent to rehab, ran away, and now travels the world committing petty crimes. Awww, she’s a poor little rich girl! She acts tough, but then we see her hiding in a bathroom stall, crying and looking at a picture of her mother. When Varun suddenly pops down from the ceiling! Good thing she was just sitting on the toilet staring at a photo not, you know, actually using it. Varun first offers to give her a “Spider-man kiss” (MAN, I love that movie! I have got to re-watch it), and then says that they can break her out if she will take them to Abuddin. And then he grabs her hands and John pulls both Varun and Jacqueline up through the ceiling. Okay, I know his character is supposed to be strong, but is that even humanly possible?
And we are in the back of a truck! Jacqueline is looking at John, who is asleep. Varun takes the chance to get a little bit back at John for the hard time he is giving him, and explains that John is off women because his girlfriend cheated on him. Because he had testicular cancer. But he is fine now! Jacqueline is relieved. And then, when Varun and John are both asleep, she takes a bunch of photos with John’s phone of her cuddled up on his shoulder, and sends them to Amisha (?) in response to her latest apology note with a message “I’ve already moved on!”
Border! Big scary guys with guns stop the truck, pull off the driver, and slowly walk up and down the aisles filled with animal cages. Our 3 heroes are hiding in the back behind feed bags. The guy gets off the truck, we all relax because he didn’t see them, and then he announces “I found it, sir!” Oh no! Cut to, truck pulling out, guy holding a goat. Apparently, that was the contraband they wanted from the truck.
So, Abuddin! My friend who I saw this with thought it was an offensive orientalization of all the ISIS videos that are bobbing around, with guns everywhere and lions and small children buying grenades. I think it is making fun of the orientalization and propaganda that is being fed to us about these places. Taking it to the extreme, to show how silly it is when news reporters buy into these fantasies of impenetrable ancient cities and a population crazed by violence.
They start asking around at the gun market, if anyone recognizes the guy in the police drawing. They first guy the ask wants to know why they want him, and John says “he is going to be the father of Jacqueline’s baby.” Which is a pretty good lie to come up with on short notice! A good reason to look hard, and no one will really ask any follow up questions. Especially because the response is a confident nod and “oh yes, he has many children!” One of whom, a little boy, grabs the picture out of their hands and runs off with it. They chase him to a courtyard where they see two lions tied up. (this is the bit where I thought “okay, they aren’t actually trying to show ISIS, they are just making fun of the superstitions around it.” The boy points at the picture, says “Dad”, and then drops it on the ground and stomps. And then runs off. Varun says “wow, i guess he really does have many children!” But John gets the message, and starts digging in the ground, unearthing a trap door.
John and Varun go in it, leaving Jacqueline alone in the square despite her objections. Kind of odd, frankly. We have established this is a very dangerous place, why would you just leave her there alone? Sure enough, she gets kidnapped. Or follows them down? It’s unclear.
First, John and Varun walk through a shadowy corridor, where they see a fishtank in which two women are kept in their underwear, one of him pounds on the glass and silently begs to be rescued. They ignore her. WHAT?!?!?!?! So, narratively, that was put in to show that this is a dangerous place for women, and that John and Varun are coldly focused on their mission. But couldn’t that same thing have been established by showing them quickly freeing two women, but not pausing to make sure they are safe? Why have them walk right by this poor woman pleading for her life? Totally distracted me! Luckily, the danger she was in was so over the top (being slowly drowned? Being displayed in a fishtank for some reason?) that I was able to tell myself “it’s only a movie, just get past it.”
John and Varun arrive in the main room to be told that the contest is about to start, whoever wins the arm wrestling contest gets to take home the woman who is about to perform. And, it’s Jacqueline! It’s a hard song to do, because it’s the only fun item song in the movie. But on the other hand, you have to sell that Jacqueline is really in danger. So, it’s uneven a bit. The big idea of the choreography is kind of clever, that Jacqueline is dancing, and Varun and John are “dancing” too, but really just trying to hold back the crowd around her. The end result is an interesting push-pull kind of movement. But it’s never 100% clear to me if Jacqueline is enjoying the attention at all, and if she was kidnapped from where they left her, or went in to follow them and got in trouble. Either way, the first priority is now rescuing her, even more than tracking down Viraj’s kidnapper. Because she is a named character with lines, unlike random fish tank woman who is left to die.
John wins the arm wrestling competition, of course, because he is John. But the kidnapper realizes why they are there, grabs Jacqueline, and takes off. There is a cool bit where John and Varun both have guns aimed at them, the kidnapper says to shoot John about 5 times, and don’t worry about Varun, he looks like he would probably drop dead just from the news. And then we pull back to look at the courtyard and the trap door again, and hear the shots. And then John and Varun fly up on a motorcycle and side-car lifting way up into the air before landing on the road! I love that we never even see how they escape, so much cooler to leave it to our imagination. And, chase! Chase chase chase! It’s a Sholay-chase, they are both in motorcycles with side-cars, John and Varun finally catch up to Jacqueline and Kidnapper, and pull her out of her side-car and onto theirs.
(Picture this, but two of them, and our heros are trying to rescue a woman in the side-car of the other one)
The grab Jacqueline just in time to enter a mine field! The mines are marked by flags, they can’t knock them down, and Varun is standing between the two side cars, so he gets hit repeatedly between the legs with the flags. Which is a really cheap gag, but it got a big laugh. Just as they exit the field, the kidnapper grabs a flag, meaning there is a rolling explosion chasing them that they have to outrun. Which, of course, they do. All is fine and dandy, about to grab the kidnapper, when he runs into the middle of a large group of men performing Namaz! NOOOOOO! They can’t chase him without disturbing the prayers! John starts to move forward, but Varun stops him, and says they can’t disturb prayers. If they honor God, he will honor them and help them succeed. Huh! So, we have this ridiculous view of faux-ISIS, but also a sincere message of respecting Muslim prayers. Oh, and it doesn’t actually work out this time, because the kidnapper is shot before they can reach him, ending their only lead.
But, we the audience know everything! Because we get to go back and check in on Akshaye. He is talking to Viraj, who is tied up in a boat. He threatens Viraj to get him to agree to throw the game, explaining that he owes a lot of money to a lot of people and his own family may be killed if he can’t pay it back (we also see his chamcha rolling cars on a bunch of phones, taking bets). Viraj refuses. Akshaye threatens Viraj’s parents, to which Viraj says “My parents are simple common people. Their only dream is that I do something for my country. They would be happy to die for that!” My goodness, I don’t think my parents would be happy to die just so I can win a Cricket match! But that might be because Cricket isn’t as big a deal for us. To have the Cubs finally win a World Series, possibly.
Back in not-Saudi Arabia (how did they get back?), everyone is all depressed, thinking the case is over. John is called back to India, not-Sonia is preparing for a press conference, Varun is on suspension, and Jacqueline is going to jail. Very sad. For some reason, they are all in the same car being driven by local cop guy taking John to the airport. John says good-bye, being dragged off by the local cop who plans to see him on the plane himself, and Varun and Jacqueline stand by the car, depressed. To cheer themselves up, Varun decides to check on “Bradman”, the dog he found. Before he returned it, he added a tracker/camera to his collar in case he got lost again. He pulls up the camera on his phone.
Meanwhile, back in Akshaye land, there’s Bradman! He’s Akshaye’s dog! And he is holding him while he says good-bye to his wife and son, who he is sending to Mauritiaus. The wife has had enough, she is sick of his lies and they way they have to keep moving all the time, and she is leaving him. Akshaye tries to spin it that everything will work out, he just needs one big score, but you can see she’s not buying it. Well, that’s nice! I mean, on the part of the filmmakers, to make sure we weren’t worried about Akshaye’s wife and son being in danger from the people he owes money too, or being terribly upset if/when John and Varun track him down. The two women in a tank in Abuddin, no idea what happened to them, but at least these people are okay.
Varun pulls up the camera on his phone just as Bradman and Akshaye are walking down the dock towards the boat. Varun keeps watching, because of all the pretty ladies who are walking by, keeps watching, keeps watching, finally sees a dead body (some guy who didn’t pay his debt who Akshaye killed in front of Viraj to scare him), and then sees Viraj! They have him! They have a clue! And then have GPS! But just as they figure it out, Akshaye notices the camera, and throws the collar away. NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! They have to find him right now!!!!
So, Varun takes off running into the airport, grabbing the badge that Jacqueline stole from the other cop. He forces his way on to the plane and announces that there is hijacker on board! He orders John to stand up, and takes some joy in playing the big man who is arresting him while John is forced to stand there and pretend to be cowed. Varun also makes sure all the passengers know his name, and gets a round of applause as he leaves. And then the other cop leaves the airport, to find the car gone! He runs back in to ask about Varun, and the lady at the desk is thrilled to explain that he just pulled a hijacker off a 747!
Varun and John race to the boat! The get there, to find Viraj in a straight jacket with a bomb! He tells them to leave, because Viraj is an all round decent perfect straight guy. Also, ha! Straight jacket! Finally the Lethal Weapon 2 thing is paying off! I’m so happy! It’s my least favorite of the Lethal Weapons, but I still love it. Rohit Dhawan and I must have very similar taste in action movies, what with this and Spider-Man.
(My most favorite Lethal Weapon. I know the first one is the best in terms of, like, over all quality, but Lethal Weapon 3 is the one I most enjoy watching over and over again)
Just as I expected all along, after Akshaye orders them into a speedboat driving far away from the dock into the middle of the ocean, the boat explodes, and everyone assumes they are all dead. Not-Sonia gets ready to prepare a statement.
Meanwhile, Akshaye happily arrives at the Cricket field to watch the match. A little boy is cheering for Viraj, and Akshay pats his head and tells him to be quiet, because Viraj won’t be playing today. But then, Viraj takes the field! The kid starts cheering! Akshaye joyfully overacts “frustration! anger! disappointment!”, throwing around his popcorn and cursing. Also, they have popcorn at Cricket matches? That sounds fun! It’s Akshaye’s turn to be yelled at as an India fan tells him to sit down so they can watch. And, flashback!
Just as I knew would happen, at the last minute somebody remembers that Houdini used to get out of a straightjacket by dislocating his shoulder. And they remember that Viraj had dislocated his shoulder in the last match and knocked it back in again. So they start hitting and hitting him, and then leap off the boat seconds before the bomb is set to go off, and Viraj gets out of the jacket in the water. Wait, do you have to be in water for this to work? I know that’s how Houdini and Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon 2 did it, but I thought that was just a coincidence. I don’t know, I guess I could see a logical reason for it, something about needing the weightlessness. Or else it is just to make it more dramatic.
Either way, Viraj got the jacket off and threw it away at the last minute, blowing up the boat, but letting them all escape. And now he is here to be the hero of the match. And India wins!!!! And we get a nice shot of Nargis and her friend watching the match, reminding us of the nice simple common people of the country who this was all for. And you know, I can’t remember what happens to Akshaye? It’s quick, whatever it is. I think he is just grabbed and thrown into a car by big scarey people, presumably to be killed because he can’t pay his debts.
Wait wait! Now I remember! He is driving away in his cool yellow jeep-like car, and suddenly a helicopter appears with John and Varun hanging out the sides! And instead of shooting him, like in Dhoom 3, the order the helicopter to fly lower and use the landing strips to rip the roof right off the car! And then they go down again and grab Akshaye up by his arms and lift him into the air! It’s a very cool use of helicopters. But now, I can’t remember again what happens next. I guess Akshaye goes to jail?
And, happy ending! Jacqueline and Varun and John are all driving to the airport for the special jet again. Varun has been re-instated and got a commendation. Jacqueline is being set back to India. And she gets to ride the same plane as John! But first, a touching good-bye. Varun tells John that he loves him. Not like, that but like a brother! Ever since his parents left for a flight back to Lahore 20 years ago and never landed, he hasn’t had family, but he feels like he has family again now. Awww! And also, what an incredibly last minute and casual way of throwing in some emotional content. But, it still worked for me, because I am a sucker for the “brothers in feeling if not in blood” kind of thing. John also says that brothers don’t say good-bye, he’ll call when he lands. Awwwwwww!
John walks away, and then Varun says to Jacqueline “Arre, Pushpa, I hate bye-byes!” Which, a bit awkward to have that quote again after it was used to such powerful emotional effect in Neerja earlier this year. But whatever, I still laughed.
(Presumably it is also sad in the original context, but I still haven’t seen Amar Prem)
Varun also tells Jacqueline that John may not show it, but he does care about her. And she should use the time on the plane to wear him down. And then John proves he does care, because when they get on the flight and he starts to light a cigarette, she asks him not to, and he actually stops and throws it away! The first time in the whole film that he has given in to someone’s request not to smoke! Oh, and somewhere earlier (or maybe right here?), he looked through his phone and found the photos she took and the message she sent, and smiled. So I guess he really does like her moxi!
And Varun gets a happy ending too! Through out the film, there’s been a running gag about him getting a call from some older guy who saw his photo on a matrimonial site, and didn’t like it. So he showed it to his wife, and she didn’t like his looks either. And then his neighbor and his uncle and so on and so on, ever escalating, and no one liked it. But finally, at the end, he gets another call, and it is a female voice, saying her father and uncle and her whole family didn’t like it, but she did! And he turns on the video on his phone, and it is a woman in a burka with beautiful eyes. And she flips back the burka, and it’s Parineeti! Well, that came out of no where! Varun takes one look, and says he is on his way to India to meet her right now! And he drives his car off into ending credits item song!