Saturday, August 1, 2015

REVIEW: Dhoom


Nothing says "Hollywood" quite like a big budget action movie. From "Fast and the Furious" to "Mission: Impossible", the American film industry is basically living off the receipts from such popular entertainments. It's no surprise then that the world's biggest film industry (Bollywood) would seek to imitate this phenomenon and thus, similar film franchises like the "Dhoom" trilogy were born. The Bollywood-Hollywood mashup of the first installment however, is an unfortunate example where the formula fails when all the right elements aren't in place.

"Dhoom" largely takes place in Mumbai, where a new motorcycle gang has sprung up on the streets, looting banks and other businesses. They've eluded the authorities with ease and the Assistant Commissioner of Police Jai Dixit (Abhishek Bachchan) has decided that he's had enough. In order to stop the gang's leader Kabir (John Abraham) and his followers, he enlists the help of a pesky thief named Ali (Uday Chopra), who infiltrates the group as a new member. But Kabir has a few tricks up his sleeves, as he aims for bigger targets, including a major casino in the tourist haven of Goa, India. The pressure is on, as Jai and Ali must pool all their skills to stop the criminals from getting away with their biggest heist yet.

Directed by Sanjay Gadhvi, "Dhoom" looks to be crafted as a star vehicle for Abishek Bachchan and John Abraham, with ample gratuitous scenes where they both get to pose and look "cool". This is where the film falters from the outset however, as the star wattage is low with these two performances. Indeed, both actors seem to be approximating their idea of "Hollywood movie star", but their generic takes fall flat, bordering on amateurish. Admittedly, Abraham's does find his bad boy groove towards the end - it helps that he looks the part - but the usually charismatic Bachchan is flat, especially when paired with the cartoonish Uday Chopra as his sidekick. As for the two female characters (Jai's wife and Ali's love interest), they serve no purpose apart from being eye candy as they get drenched in water for no reason. Seriously, both are introduced in musical scenes where they get hosed down and dance in the rain respectively. Oy vey!

This discord between Bachchan's mellow performance and the flashy movie around him, particularly highlights the fundamental clash of styles that plagues "Dhoom". As pure action filmmaking, it lacks the scale and audacity required to get your heart racing. Mired in limp procedural and low stakes motorbike action, the pacing is off and genuine thrills are sorely lacking.

Likewise, as your typical Bollywood musical masala - a uniquely Indian mix of action, comedy, romance and drama - it also fails to entertain. Juxtaposed with the more serious tone of the action-thriller tropes, the haphazard song-and-dance interludes come across as corny, especially since the songs are so forgettable. Mainstream Bollywood films are almost always entertaining if nothing else, so something is clearly not right here.

Essentially, "Dhoom" isn't big enough to replicate Hollywood spectacle and it's not masala enough to have that Bollywood appeal. Though I count myself as a fan of this film's sequel "Dhoom 2" (a major improvement in every regard), I remain baffled that it managed to spawn such a wildly successful franchise (the biggest in Bollywood history). Too frivolous to be taken seriously and too blandly serious to be an effective parody, this bastard child of Bollywood-Hollywood intercourse is stuck in no man's land.

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