It's a given that hi-voltage action thrillers enthrall and electrify viewers no end. The existing inclination within the industry is to opt for remakes [of South Indian films specifically], though Abbas-Mustan have continuously, in their three decade career, tilted towards western thrillers to be specific. PLAYERS, their latest offering, is the official remake of THE ITALIAN JOB. But it's not a scene to scene adaptation of the classic that was attempted twice in the West. The core conception remains the same, but the screenplay is amended significantly to suit the Indian sensibilities.
A recreation or adaptation always leads to comparisons with the original work. And Abbas-Mustan will have to pass this acid test, since THE ITALIAN JOB is no regular film. Made twice in Hollywood [first in 1969 and then in 2003], THE ITALIAN JOB is a heist film with a variation. Like I pointed out earlier, PLAYERS is an altered version of THE ITALIAN JOB, catering more to the desi sensibilities. It's about a gang of skillful, stylish and sharp players who join hands to carry out a heist. Prepare yourself for a masala film with ample twists and turns, stunning and gorgeous locales, stylized stunts and adrenaline-pumping chases, lots of style and attitude and of course, the mandatory songs and comic sequences... In that respect, PLAYERS is in a completely different zone when one draws parallels with THE ITALIAN JOB.
One more clarification! When the promos of PLAYERS came on air, a lot of people felt that it seemed like an updated version of DHOOM. But let's spell this out at the very onset: There's no similitude between PLAYERS and DHOOM, apart from the fact that both belong to the action genre. DHOOM revolved around the cops-robbers face off, while the characters in PLAYERS are all thieves.
Adventure movies made in Bollywood, by and large, stress on modish imageries, while the actual concept takes a backseat. That's precisely the trouble with PLAYERS. While a one-page synopsis of the film would evoke euphoric and ecstatic reactions, it's the screenplay, with a running time of almost 2.45 hours [20 reels], that lacks the power to keep you enthralled and enchanted. In short, PLAYERS has style and attitude, but what it lacks is soul and spirit!
PLAYERS is about a team of skilled and sharp group of people -- Charlie [Abhishek Bachchan], Ronnie [Bobby Deol], Spider [Neil Nitin Mukesh], Riya [Bipasha Basu], Bilal [Sikander Kher] and Sunny [Omi Vaidya] -- who rob the gold bullion from Russia successfully. But one of them double crosses the players and the team sets out, with Naina [Sonam Kapoor] also included in their task now, to retrieve the booty and also settle scores.
First things first! PLAYERS is an escapist fare, packed with ingredients that are considered mandatory in a Bollywood film. So if you are under the impression that Abbas-Mustan may have shunned the commercial trappings since it is an official adaptation of THE ITALIAN JOB, you're mistaken. PLAYERS doesn't imagine itself to be cinema that educates, enlightens or mollifies an academician. Furthermore, Abbas-Mustan's movies are never simplistic by nature. There are twists at the start, twists in the middle and twists towards the finale and just when you think that the movie's about to conclude, the director duo usually toss yet another twist in your face, leaving you startled for a minute or two. PLAYERS stays true to their style, but the twists here aren't the type that shock, amaze or astonish. One of the twists -- about the double crosser -- does catch you by surprise, but the remaining ones don't and that's where the screenplay falters.
It's a screenplay of convenience. The manner in which the gang sets out to execute the heist in Russia seems like a cakewalk or child's play, which is so damn difficult to absorb. Common guys, you are talking of robbing a nation's assets in broad daylight and the convenience with which things fall into place makes the entire heist phony and fake. Ditto towards the finale, when the chase ensues. Though the train robbery [in the first hour] and the chase sequence [climax] leave you awe-struck, the approach with which the gang sets out to achieve the goal is what appears counterfeit. In fact, given the genre of the film [a hi-octane thriller], one would've expected the writers to integrate a dash of realism in the plot for the goings-on to look plausible and credible, but the haphazard screenplay and the excessive length only dilutes the impact generated by some wonderful moments that PLAYERS has to offer.
It is accepted that Abbas-Mustan are forward-thinking directors. Not only do they opt for varied plots for their films, but also think out of the box when it comes to execution of the written material. Irrespective of how their films are received at the ticket window, you cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that they never pursue the trodden trail. But it's the screenplay that lets them down this time. Since a large part of the movie involves action and chase sequences [Allan Amin], the amalgamation of thrills and daredevil stunts keeps you on the edge. Also, the scale of the film is overwhelming. Filmed at the panoramic locales of Russia, Netherlands, New Zealand and of course, India, the DoP [Ravi Yadav] bestows the film with an international look. In fact, it's an incredibly good looking film!
Pritam's music is, to put it bluntly, a minus point. One misses a captivating soundtrack here. The music is deficient of the dynamism and passion that one witnessed in Pritam's preceding works in this variety [DHOOM, DHOOM 2 and RACE].
ZAMEEN was the first movie wherein Abhishek Bachchan's characteristic macho style was detected by the spectators. Movies like DHOOM, DUS, BLUFFMASTER and last year's DUM MAARO DUM strengthened his image further. The actor flaunts his popular style and attitude with panache in PLAYERS. Bobby Deol is wasted. Seriously, why is he sidelined in the plot? Bipasha enacts the role of a con artiste with super confidence. She looks fab and emotes with conviction. It's an image transformation for Sonam in PLAYERS. She has never done a full-on glamorous role before and PLAYERS should change the perception. However, the rawness, as an actor, shows in a variety of scenes.
Neil Nitin Mukesh is entrusted with a challenging role, but he lacks the charisma and skill to carry off the part with dexterity. Sikander Kher has an insignificant role. As for Omi Vaidya, the less said the better. He irritates and hams incessantly. Vinod Khanna is not in his element either. Johny Lever is hilarious as the car dealer. Aftab Shivdasani appears in a cameo.
On the whole, PLAYERS rides mainly on the clout of its credible director duo [Abbas-Mustan], daredevil stunts and stunning visuals. But, most importantly, it is deficient of a captivating screenplay. Also, the film could have done with judicious trimming for an enhanced impact. I for one went in with colossal expectations, but came out feeling downcast and disheartened.