Unpredictable is what defines the core essence of Race as a brand. This is what made the original film such an enticing affair and the same was expected of the sequel.
Well, one isn’t disappointed through the first half of the film. However, as the film proceeds after a terrific start, one realizes that the narrative starts focusing more on set-piece action sequences and enthralling locales even as the focus on drama is getting diluted. That turns out to be the undoing of a film that could have scaled much greater heights than it actually does.
The film starts in a true blue Abbas-Mustan style. Twists after twists fill the proceedings as you try to decipher who is wrong and who has been wronged.
The sequence at the casino where Saif meets a casino owner (Rajesh Khattar) and explains his plan, the game of double crossing, the mind games played between Saif, John and Deepika, the secret being unveiled about Jacqueline Fernandes, inclusion of Anil Kapoor and Ameesha Patel into the plan, journey down memory lane with Bipasha Basu, the motive behind each of the players coming together in this race for money or death - just about everything works in the film’s favor.
(Above): John Abraham in “Race 2.”
In fact this part of the film matches the Abbas-Mustan template and moves at a feverish pace. Despite the fact that you are prepared for the unexpected, the twists and turns surprise and at places even shock you. In fact the interval point of the film gears you to check what’s in store during the second half of the film.
This is where the film gets into a different territory altogether. Just as in the case of Don 2 where focus had shifted to a heist instead of the escapades of the man himself, even Race 2 moves into the museum mein chori episode. Frankly, after witnessing so many heist thrillers from the West, this sounds like an unnecessary distraction. Moreover with the entire premise being set so well, you want to see Saif and John take on each other instead of the former carrying out a heist and latter fighting it out in the ring.
It doesn’t mean that the sequences aren’t well done. In fact you do munch your popcorn as the sequences unfold. However the thrilling effect that the film had promised at the very onset isn’t as prominent this time around. Moreover the pre-climax, when all actors come together in a secluded spot, is way too predictable to be taken seriously. As for the climax set in an aircraft, one still waits for the day when a Bollywood flick would actually get it right in the VFX department.
(Above): Jacqueline Fernandez in “Race 2.”
The film still succeeds in keeping your attention alive right through its narrative, without turning into a boring outing, even in the second half.
Moreover, with top-notch cinematography, catchy locations, excellent background music, and peppy music, there is a cinematic value to Race 2, making it a good big screen watch.
As for the actors, it is clear that the brief given to everyone was to be cool. John looks good with his mannerisms being cool, enough to suit the film’s requirement, while Saif plays it right with a straight face and clearly seems to be having fun. Surprisingly Deepika has a relatively minor role to play. However she looks stunning in every frame that she appears. Jacqueline has a bigger part to play and she does it well while looking her best. Anil Kapoor and Ameesha do bring in smiles whenever they come on screen though one does feel that there should have been more for the veteran actor and a little less of the poor jokes they crack together. Rajesh Khattar is convincing in his part while Aditya Pancholi in a guest appearance is good as well.
(Above): Deepika Padukone and Saif Ali Khan in “Race 2.”
Overall Race 2 fits fairly well in the franchise template and doesn’t intend at digressing from that. While that is good from the core perspective, one can clearly sense that the kind of watertight treatment that Race had boasted, is missing in the sequel.
To conclude, it is fun for a good part, but the extra zing that could have turned it into an enthralling affair like Race, is somewhat missing.