PLAYERS (2012)

Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Neil Nitin, Bobby Deol,OmVaidya, Sikander Kher and Vinod Khanna
Direction by Abbas Mastan
Music by Pritam
Hindi,  Jan 2012

I never thought I would say this – but with Players, Abbas Mastan has come up with a better heist movie than what several other big shot directors and stars were attempting in recent past. Make it –very recent!

Oh boy, after the disappointing way a highly anticipated ‘chase’ movie fizzled into a ridiculous heist flick a few weeks back, I was ready for the worst. And it did look like exactly that, when we get introduced to the burglar, Charlie (Abhishek Bachchan) in action with his lady accomplice Riya (Bipasha Basu) in a laughable jewelry robbery. Then it gets even worse when we get to see Aftab Shivdasani make a special appearance and get chased down and shot at, somewhere in the landscapes of Russia, making you wonder how many non-performers have the ‘men in white’ managed to stuff into this one single movie.

Thankfully the film begins to find a footing from thereon. With the tip off from the dead friend in Russia, Charlie gets to discover about a gold bounty that is soon going to be transported from Russia to Romania. Charlie now has to come up with not only a plan to get the gold in his kitty, but also need the best team of specialists that he can (or ‘Players’ as they annoyingly keep referring to themselves throughout).  For this Charlie goes to his mentor Victor Dada (Vinod Khanna) who seems to be an acting consultant for the police force while serving his jail sentence.

Victor Dada, though reluctant at first, decides to help out Charlie (as it all for a worthy cause, you see). Thus Victor dada recruits in an illusionist (Bobby Deol), an explosive expert (Sikander), a make up specialist (Om Vaidya) and bombshell with some automechanical skills, (Bipasha Basu). Now all they need is to locate the best hacker in the world – code name Spider (Neil Nitin Mukesh). However thanks to Victor’s ‘computer science post graduate’ daughter (Sonam Kapoor), they manage to locate Spider with relative ‘ease’.

Now with a team in hand, Charlie sets off to pull off what he claims to be ‘the biggest robbery in world history’. And boy, the team does achieve it and would have made off with the booty had it not been for one small problem…..

First things first, Players is an official remake of an otherwise average heist movie in the early 2000s, Italian Job which in itself is a remake of a ’69 British flick by the same name. So it is not like they have got an awesome script as the original base. But yet, they have managed to weave out a 170 minute yarn of good harmless fun as a truck load of gold bars keep changing hands.

Be brave and try not to get deterred by the cameo from Aftab Shivdasani. If you endure it bravely, you will be ready for more predictably inconsistent performances, as expected.   Abhishek Bachchan still seems to be in a Dhoom style persona, playing the man under control without exuding much charm or substance. Sonam Kapoor , clearly a misfit, plays her role pitching it to rather annoying levels. Neil Nitin, Bobby, Om Vaidya, Sikander Kher may put in a good scene here or there only to follow it several scenes later with an equally disappointing display of awfulness. Vinod Khanna and Johnny Lever are passable.  Bipasha bares a lot through the movie, displaying even her limited acting range. It does not help much either when her skills in the team is to keep a watch on the timer and to keep narrating the  oh–so-obvious happenings onscreen – ‘Guys! There is trouble ahead!  ‘ Guys! This could be dangerous’, Guys, this ….’   Oh stop it already.

The villain of the piece not only gets something to chew on but plays it deliriously over the top making all Bollywood purists proud. He even gets a Mogambo-like hi tech lair where he can mouth his threatening lines. Little coincidence then, that Li’l Mr. India is the one who gets to walk into the lair first.

Abbas Mastan’s style of approach is quite obvious, post Race. While other directors try to sneak in maximum songs into their narration, these two are content shoving in maximum ‘twists’ into the same. They do run the risk of over-cooking it like ‘Race’ but eventually this time they get more rights than wrong. The film did not feel its length and the writers keep you engaged with one twist to the other.

The writing isn’t exactly out of the world, but at least it does not treat the audience as complete dimwits either. In fact it is a mixed bag. The writing team throws in many a blunder and smartly goes about cleaning up that mess by revealing later it as all deliberate and part of a bigger plot twist. And this twist within a twist game goes on for nearly three hours. So I guess the editor too was on vacation with the crew, shopping away instead of chopping away when required. The soundtrack from Pritam is a total disappointment and deserves to be snipped away as they merely serve as unwanted speed breakers.

Ravi Yadav’s cinematography is praiseworthy, taking us on a package tour via Amsterdam, Russia, Goa, New Zealand.

Though Players , like Don, takes on a world of gadgets and face masks from a Mission Impossible world, and even a plot line from a Hollywood flick, director Abbas Mastan with the writing team of Rohit Jugraj and Sudip Sharma, manages to keep things ‘desi’ in spirit. That eventually works in the movie’s favour. Those already familiar with the original film and such similar heist flicks might find it under whelming, but the film holds enough thrills for the rest of the folks out there.

The action sequences are noteworthy and one can see that there has been lot more pains taken to make the action play out more convincingly. Be it the masks, the voice modulations, the director duo does go about explaining it. I was also impressed to see a variant of the projection technique, used recently in MI4, make an appearance here.

Eventually not all the twists manage to bowl you over, and not all the performances are going to be a hit out of the park. Yet in spite of going beyond the playing time, Abbas Mastan has put on offer a good game laden with twists,  and the Players have certainly stepped up to the challenge!

Rating:   3  outta 5 

(originally published at Mad About Moviez)

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