x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

In Cinemas: Shah Rukh Khan shines in Don 2

The action is at its best when it revolves around the film's popular Bollywood lead.

Shah Rukh Khan in a scene from Don 2. Courtesy Excel Entertainment
Shah Rukh Khan in a scene from Don 2. Courtesy Excel Entertainment

Don 2
Director:
Farhan Akhtar
Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Om Puri
***

Shah Rukh Khan excels in this sequel to the 2006 hit in which he plays a crime lord determined to steal the money plates used to make European bank notes and make himself the dominant drug baron in Europe, as well as India.

The writer and director Farhan Akhtar may have taken the name of the title character from Don Corleone in The Godfather, but his inspiration for the eponymous villain is drawn far more from modern franchise heroes such as Jason Bourne, Ethan Hawke and John McClane.

Continuing where the story left off (as anyone who saw Murder 2 this year will know, that's not always a prerequisite in Bollywood sequels), it jumps straight into the action with Don beating up a bunch of goons in Thailand. The hoodlums have been sent by a group of European crime bosses meeting in the French Riviera and the scene on a yacht is noteworthy for the chew-the-scenery acting - like watching a bad car crash. Bollywood directors, even the best ones, have a penchant for picking terrible western actors for minor roles.

The action is a whole lot better when it revolves around Khan. The actor gives one of his finest performances in recent years, seemingly loving every moment he gets to deliver droll lines with a glint in his eye, the wicked devious plans he hatches and being an action anti-hero. It's a performance full of all the charisma needed to pull off one of the most difficult tricks in the movie business: making the audience root for the bad guy.

Once again, the on-screen chemistry with Roma (Priyanka Chopra) sizzles. She returns as the cop determined to put the kingpin behind bars. In the first of many unexpected twists, Don walks into a police station and gives himself up in the hope of doing a deal, providing information on the criminal underworld in exchange for immunity. CBI Officer Vishal Malik (Om Puri) is in no mood to compromise.

It turns out that Don has chosen one of the cleanest prisons in Malaysia, the white walls are freshly painted and the toilets look like they have been designed for a five-star hotel. It's these seemingly small details that Akhtar in future will do well to pay more attention to. It turns out that Don's stay in prison is the perfect ruse to reunite with his nemesis Vardhaan (Boman Irani) and start up a new criminal enterprise.

Apart from a rather poor song that breaks up the action before the gang arrive in Berlin, the pacing and the set-up are excellent. In Europe, the action goes into overdrive with car chases, femmes fatales planting phones and even an unexpected cameo from Hrithik Roshan. A side-story involving computer whizz Sameer (Kunal Kapoor) adds to the tension.

The heist on the German Central Bank is as ambitious as anything in Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's films, but it's during the long-winded execution that the movie starts to falter. Apart from a bungee jump from a tall building, most of the stunts are disappointing and derivative and there is the annoying habit of fast-forwarding moments of action and needless jump cuts. Another one of Bollywood's narrative Achilles heels is also overused: the unnecessary flashback to fill in gaps whenever there is a twist. And yet despite the lulls, the final scene sees a motorcycle being ridden with the number plates Don 3. This is the movie that proves Hindi cinema is finally mastering the sequel.

artslife@thenational.ae