x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Bollywood delivers a wild, fun ride with Players

Bollywood's turn to put a spin on The Italian Job proves to be a fun romp.

Directors: Abbas Alibhai Burmawalla, Mastan Alibhai Burmawalla
Starring: Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor, Bobby Deol, Neil Nitin Mukesh

If the plot about stealing a mind-boggling amount of gold bullion by creating a monumental traffic jam sounds familiar, that's because it was the basis of Michael Caine's finest hour in The Italian Job (1969). F Gary Gray remade The Italian Job in 2003, moving the story from the streets of Turin to Los Angeles and putting Mark Wahlberg in the lead role. As far as remakes go, it wasn't half bad.

Now it's Bollywood's turn to put a spin on the original Troy Kennedy-Martin script. Although Abhishek Bachchan is not quite up to the standard of Caine, the troupe pull off their own remarkable heist, making Players - now in cinemas across the UAE - a bigger, larger and more fun version of the tale. A feat worth its weight in gold.

And speaking of gold, it has gone up in price, from US$4 million (Dh15m) in Turin to America's $34m and now $1bn.

It's also a curiosity that what started out as a lean 99-minute British heist movie became a 111-minute Hollywood blockbuster and is now an almost three-hour paean to Hindi cinema. The directors Abbas and Mastan have made use of the additional time, by adding even more plot twists to the story, assembling a bigger team of crooks, and deciding to pay homage not just to The Italian Job - in the dramatic build up to a train robbery, there are elements of Ocean's Eleven and the Bourne trilogy.

The action starts in Amsterdam where femme fatale Riya (Bipasha Basu) is helping Charlie (Bachchan) steal a famous necklace, "the Rose of Samarkand", from a jewellery store. Bursting through the window, Bachchan delivers his lines in a rather plummy British accent. It's the first of his many disguises and accents, as the actor gets to demonstrate a remarkable range pretending to be a Russian soldier and a bumbling assistant to an Indian billionaire.

Six months later in Russia, a fellow villain is killed by the Russian mafia while searching for a planned robbery inside a train full of Romanian gold. The blueprint has already found its way to Charlie, hidden in a copy of Oliver Twist. With the help of wily old Victor (Vinnod Khanna), a crack team is put together. Charlie and automobile expert Riya are joined by Bilan (Sikander Kher), an explosives expert who speaks 32 languages, failed actor Sunny (Omi Vaidya), a master of prosthetics and make-up, Ronnie (Deol), an illusionist with a dark secret and Spider (Mukesh), a computer hacker. Together they pull off an exhilarating train heist, one of the best action sequences produced in Bollywood. The only disappointments are the Britney Spears-inspired pop numbers, including one horrendous song about Charlie's Angels.

None of this is very Italian Job until the twist that they are being double-crossed is revealed just before the interval. Victor's daughter Naina (Kapoor) joins the game to retrieve the bullion that now sits in New Zealand as the remake starts in earnest after the pause.

In possibly the best product placement in any movie, it doesn't take long before three Mini Coopers are wheeled out and become the focal point of the action.

As impressive as these cars may be, though, they can't match the adrenalin stirred by that fantastic train robbery.


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