Film Review: Don 2
Director: Farhan Akhtar
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Boman Irani, Lara Dutta, Kunal Kapoor, Nawab Khan
With Shah Rukh Khan, a huge budget, big explosions, a perfectly made up Priyanka Chopra as a Michelle Rodriguez-wannabe, tank-topped tough cop, and a heist plot, Don 2 has something for everyone. That is, if “everyone” were under the age of fifteen. The rest of us will likely wonder what happened to the need for a decent story or a well-written script. But if you like your cinema with snazzy illogical thrills, then Don 2 is fun-enough junk.
The original 1978 Don is a cult classic because of Amitabh Bachchan’s magnetism, solid characters, deft pacing and Zeenat Aman’s oomph. All the cheese was offset by the suave brilliance of Mr. Bachchan. The 2006 Farhan Akhtar remake was an unintentionally hilarious, dopey, badly acted, commercially successful modern action flick. The best way to describe Don 2 is Plot Hole Porn. The film is as woefully illogical as its predecessor, except it flaunts a bigger budget for added ludicrousness. Once again, director Farhan Akhtar and leading star Shah Rukh Khan don’t aim for the cerebral, and are happy to simply cobble together a bunch of glossy foreign-based action staples, and then hope it all works out. Only after you stroll out of the cinema in a dizzy whir do you start to realise that you weren’t really impressed by what you saw, but were inadvertently entertained.
The story is a glorious compendium of clichés. The film picks up almost immediately where the previous one left off. Don (Khan) is now the kingpin of the Asian underworld, and has his sights set on the European market. He crafts a cunning plan to surrender himself to Interpol and then escape from prison with a certain inmate that he needs for his master plan of robbing currency plates from Berlin. The action immediately shifts to Europe, as Don starts rounding up a gang for the big heist, and we’re treated to over-the-top, contrived car chases, an impossible rooftop stunt and some of the cheesiest dialogues in recent memory. The ‘twist’ at the end is so predictable that one can’t help but be stunned by the film’s Neanderthal mentality.
Throughout the movie, Shah Rukh Khan’s face sports a contorted expression that suggests the need for more fibre in his diet. He has neither the personality nor the versatility of the great Amitabh Bachchan. Instead, he hams uncontrollably, even more so than in the 2006 film, almost like his life depends on it. The romantic angle between Don and Roma (Priyanka Chopra) is comically forced and sappy—the chemistry between the two has as many sparks as a Mumbai blackout. Boman Irani as Vardhan, the villain from the first Don film, and Aly Khan as Diwan the head of a German currency centre, nearly sleepwalk through their roles. Nawwab Shah as Jabbar gives The Incredible Hulk a complex, not in terms of muscle but through wooden acting. Somewhere in the midst of all of this, Lara Dutta keeps popping up as Don’s girlfriend in what is arguably the most hysterically clichéd and unnecessary vamp character stereotype to grace the big screen since Drew Barrymore in Batman. Om Puri, in his career’s worst performance, is gloriously campy; he almost tells us that we’re meant to laugh at him, not with him.
Three different people were credited with writing Don 2 (Akhtar, Ameeth Mehta and Amrish Shah), and I bet they’re still arguing over who deserves recognition for the part where Interpol cop Priyanka Chopra pursues Don in a car for ten whole minutes but never bothers to call for backup. Don wears a Mission Impossible-esque plastic mask of another man (a great cameo from an A-list actor), but he also speaks with the actor’s voice. Don, the most wanted man in the world, also carries bungee jump kits strapped to his back when he goes out for strolls in public.
Without a doubt, the technical aspects are superior to any Indian film to date, and the cinematography by Jason West is truly gorgeous. Also, Don 2 is never boring, thanks to its dazzling special effects that enable the actors to flip, fly, jump, dropkick, punch and kick each other like jackhammers. The slow-mo Matrix-like martial arts from the 2006 film make way for some decent hand-to-hand combat. Of course none of this compensates for the overfamiliar plotline, the amusingly underdeveloped side characters, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s insipid soundtrack and a general air of overbaked silliness. Priyanka Chopra and Lara Dutta are as attractive as the Berlin locales, and the film is occasionally funny, even if the laughs come mostly during the movie’s most dramatic, heartfelt moments. Don 2 is astonishingly daft, but it’s also so profoundly earnest that it is uniquely, hilariously enjoyable. In other words, it’s so bad that it’s good.