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Race 2

DIRECTOR: Abbas-Mustan

CAST: Saif Ali Khan, John Abraham, Anil Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Jacqueline Fernandez, Ameesha Patel, Aditya Pancholi

Rating: *1/2

There are often good reasons why retreads do not reach the same level as the original. In 2008, Race gave us bad guys and very bad girls who used bronzers and booze as lethal weapons, and Abbas-Mustan managed to make of that mix a slick thriller. Five years later, we have a sequel, and it's all so been-there-seen that-so-what, that Race 2 just passes in front of our eyes without registering.

And here's why. All good sequels have enough of the original to give us a sense of continuity but create enough difference to be able to stand on their own. The director duo has kept only two of the original cast Saif as ruthless, rich businessman Ranveer, and Anil Kapoor, the fruit-eating lug as RD. John Abraham is new bad guy Armaan, and Jacqui and Deepika are the two fresh lovelies, going by the oh-such-swish-names as Omisha and Aleena. Omisha and Aleena? Oh well. It doesn't really matter what they are called. It is how they look. Given enough expanse of toned inches and smooth skin and designer sheaths, all women look the same. And that is the trouble with this film.

Race 2 looks exactly like Race. Which may have been intentional because plush locations and pretty playthings and buff men are very much Abbas-Mustan trademarks. But all it does is cause a dismally same-same feeling. So much so that the new characters start feeling old within a few frames. Even the plot, which has a one-line pitch Ranveer out to avenge the death of the love of his life

becomes subservient to the larger cause of looking glossy.

So Saif, hair slicked back with tons of gel and outfitted in very swish suits, looks just like he did as a suave spy in Agent Vinod. John Abraham sports such bulging biceps, you fear for his arms. Only Anil Kapoor, who is carrying his ultra-trim fifty-plus persona easily these days, manages to look as if he is enjoying himself. Given the deeply-visible-cleavage-bare-midriff-very-bare-legs dress code, you could easily interchange the girls without doing them injustice: even Ameesha, who shows up here in the thankless role of RD's dumb blonde "assistant" (remember Sameera Reddy in this role?), has to fall in line with the rest.

When the cast is all properly kitted out, it is made to carry out heists in sacred European churches (the Shroud of Turin, no less, of whatever significance that might be), shoot at each other, dance with elbows and pelvis out, spin roulette balls, and outwit each other. Oh yes, if it is an Abbas-Mustan flick, it must have songs on the beach and mustangs cantering, too. Or how else will it be called "Race"?

My favourite line from the film (there are several, including Kapoor doing an Ajit, saying "good buoy") comes from Jacqui's bow-shaped mouth: men are many, but money is money. So profound, no?

And oh yes, all indications lead us to believe that there will be a third instalment. Don't say we didn't warn you.

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