Agent Vinod Indian Express Movie Review by Shubhra Gupta

Agent VinodCast:Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Adil Hussain, Ram Kapoor, Prem Chopra, Dhritiman Chatterjee

Director: Sriram Raghavan

Indian Express Ratings:**

Dashing Indian secret agent. Pretty Pakistani spy. Ornamental villains. Global hotspots. The new ‘Agent Vinod’ checks off each item on the list, holding out the promise of a well-crafted, high octane spy thriller. But practically from the moment it started to unspool, I began being assailed first by doubt, then with sinking conviction : this was not the Sriram Raghavan film I’d been waiting for. This around-the-world in two-and-a-half very long hours is all dressed up, with some slick set-pieces, but it spends most of its time in plodding through genre conventions. Where’s the crackle?

It’s funny how much the world has progressed, but when it comes right down to it, it still needs saving, and only a braveheart can do it, flying solo. Agent Vinod (Khan) is sent off to track a death and a device, and while he is dashing in and out of continents, and trains, planes, and automobiles, he runs into all kinds of bad guys. A long haired go-between between gangsters and arms-suppliers (Ram Kapoor), a brocade-sherwani-clad shyster (Chopra), a rogue ISI general (Hussain), a rich businessman who is part of a mysterious international cartel (Chatterjee), and, above all, a lovely Pakistani spy who has a way with truth serums ( Kareena).

There’s nothing to warn us that we are in for strictly bits-and-pieces of fun. But that is the film’s trajectory, split between speeding and slowing down to re-create familiar scenes. This results in a repetitive loop : fast-paced Bond-style bang-bangs interspersed with two good-looking spies criss-crossing each other, as corpses pile up. It doesn’t help that the plot is overly busy, scurrying from one point to another, and going on and on, much after the story is over. Even the camp is not high enough, and some of the humour is clunky.

In a genre film, even if it is a mix of a Hollywood actioner and Bollywood romance (with an item number thrown in), you have to refresh rather than reprise. There are a couple of underlined nods to the original ‘Agent Vinod’, and some parts of the film, when it decides to come to the sub-continent (Delhi has a great, laugh-out loud sequence) feel more realized; the rest is a series of seen-that, next-is-what moments, with only a few genuine surprises. It got so that I was ready to embrace Kareena’s ‘quasi-mujra’ with more affection that the rushing around that had gone before, except she turns out to be not the best ‘mujrewali’ in the world, and not quite the femme fatale she needs to be. But the most leaden part of the film is the hero. Saif Ali Khan (or his body double) executes some eye-catching stunts but gets lost in the look-at-me-playing-the-suave-spy endeavour.

What made ‘Johnny Gaddar’, Raghavan’s previous outing, such a joy was not only that it was a well-told cops-and-robbers tale, which it was, but that it was driven by a voice and a vision that was completely the director’s. It is unclear where ‘Agent Vinod’ is coming from. You can see the Bond-Bourne-Ludlum influences, but not the unfettered play of Sriram Raghavan’s wit and intelligence.

Where’s the fizz?

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