4.5 Excellent

During the 1980s, the advent of wealth indicators such as televisions, Marutis, Fiats, Bajaj scooters and gold was partly attributed to the growth of substantial black money among politicians, businessmen and celebrities. Such wealth always brought with it the risk of exposure leading to the CBI and IT officials being viewed with trepidation. One con man, along with his partners, took advantage of this fear and conducted a series of intricately planned raids in the name of those agencies.
Director Neeraj Pandey ('A Wednesday') tackles an intelligent subject after his acclaimed debut thriller and lives up to the promise of his distinct talent. Special 26 is a witty entertainer, based on true events in the same period and has its bases well covered with superlative performances by its actors, a credible, chronological script and screenplay with adroit direction that keeps the momentum under control between the seriousness, suspense and fun.
Ajay (Akshay Kumar) intricately plans the raids and executes them rapidly, covering every detail and improvising spontaneously with his accomplices that include Iqbal (Kishore Kadam), Joginder (Rajesh Sharma) and of course, the brilliant Anupam Kher. Their first raid humiliates Inspector Ranvir Singh (Jimmy Shergil) who supported it unknowingly, thus leaving him distraught and determined to apprehend them. He passes on leads and information to a real CBI official who approaches the case in a diligent, critical manner with focused tenacity. Manoj Bajpai as Wasim Khan is the formidable force that can disrupt all those intricately planned heists and while they're made aware of their fake raid making it to the news, Ajay plans one big raid at a jeweler in Bombay by recruiting 26 more 'CBI interns'. Little does he know that Wasim Khan is a step ahead of his plan..... or is he really?
Neeraj Pandey depicts the screenplay at a racy pace except for the occasional romantic escapade involving Ajay and Priya (Kajal Agarwal). Pandey's attention to detail is conspicuous in almost every scene with regards to the vehicles, structures, fashion and background score. But the film's strengths are its well directed storyline and the performances by its A-list of actors. While the director manages the balance between the seriousness of a raid and its fun result, the actors have their own fun portraying varying shades of themselves within moments in the screenplay.
Special 26 could not have come at a better time for Akshay Kumar. Just when all his films started looking the same and his role in them hackneyed, along comes a genre in which he excelled ('Hera Pheri', 'Aankhein'). As a lead con man, his dedication and sincerity result in a convincing portrayal of the character while there is a complete lack of other nonsense that he has subjected his fans to recently, including item songs, jarring dialogues and ridiculous action.

Manoj Bajpai plays a character that is yet distinct for an actor of his caliber, which in itself is remarkable. His ferocity in a chase sequence, composure while being in a commanding situation and natural reaction to adversity are notable traits in his laudable performance.
Pandey maintains his conviction in one of India's finest actors, Anupam Kher, by casting him alongside Akshay Kumar and what a masterful delivery of versatility it was!
His dialogue delivery varies in tone and confidence as he appears as the CBI Officer P.K. Sharma and as the tense con man who fakes it all. He thus provides most of the humorous moments without having to jump around or being obtuse.
Among the supporting cast, Jimmy Shergill delivers an act so convincing that we all buy into his Inspector Ranvir Singh. Kadam and Sharma, as the other two accomplices are realistic actors for their roles whereas Tiku Talsania was at his comical, cheery best in a cameo.
In terms of MM Kreem's score, the Akshay Kumar sung Mujhme tu is soothing but breaks the fast paced screenplay. Gore Mukhde is a fine bhangra number, to be listened to on an evening drive along Carter Road.
With two critically and unanimously acclaimed films in his hat, Neeraj Pandey will have added pressure to deliver even better. Meanwhile, his team of Special 26 has achieved something that most films and film makers struggle with..... - Pure entertainment.
This one should not be missed.

- 8.812 on a scale of 1-10.