Film Review: ‘Agent Vinod’
Director: Sriram Raghavan
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Shahbaz Khan, Prem Chopra, Ram Kapoor
The good news—Agent Vinod taps the Don films on the shoulder and asks them to piss off. The bad news—the film is not as smart and entertaining as it thinks it is. Starring Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor, the plot moves around aimlessly, and there’s a collection of goofy illogicalities. That would have been fine had the movie been completely devoted to being a garish, tongue-in-cheek comedy-thriller the way the 1970s film of the same name was. Unfortunately, this Agent Vinod seems like an unappetising byproduct oozing out of a blender stuffed with Sunny Deol’s Hero: The Love Story of a Spy, Anubhav Sinha’s Dus and Mr. Bond starring Akshay Kumar. The fact that director Sriram Raghavan has made the excellent Ek Haseena Thi and the magnificent Johnny Gaddar gives one the impression that the final cut of Agent Vinod is not the film he originally wanted to make. It’s beautifully shot, but it clumsily dances the line between the merely passable and the completely boring. In fact, even the much acclaimed trailer of the film was misleading, because most of the good stuff (like certain bits of dialogue) doesn’t even appear in the movie.
The story is hideously convoluted—Agent Vinod (Saif Ali Khan) is a super spy working for a super-secret Indian intelligence agency. He escapes from Afghanistan from the clutches of terrorist leader Huzefa (Shahbaz Khan from Chandrakanta) and is handed a new assignment by his boss (B. P. Singh, the creator of CID)—his mission: to stop a heinous terror attack in India. The job takes him (and us) through all sorts of snazzy places including Latvia, Russia, Morocco, Delhi and even Karachi, where he meets strange, farcical characters like his personal doctor (Kareena Kapoor), a drug-running African sheikh (a hamming Prem Chopra), an Indo-Russian warlord (a hilarious Ram Kapoor speaking in a Russian accent), and various clandestine conspirators (played by Dhritiman Chatterjee, Adil Hussain, Gulshan Grover). The locales are gorgeous, but that doesn’t necessarily make for a smart movie. Moreover, the second half and finale are so clichéd that even a novice moviegoer would know exactly what’s going to happen 20 minutes into the film.
There are a few action scenes, but they’re poorly choreographed and shot—it is impossible to make out what’s going on. Product placements are a plenty—most of Agent Vinod feels like being stuck in a never-ending commercial starring a glamorous real-life couple. Khan and Kapoor reprise the chemistry that they shared in Tashan, but sadly the soulless hangover from that movie seems to have been carried forward in Agent Vinod. The film at times breaks into trippy segments that are juxtaposed with classic Hindi songs and incongruous sound effects. These actually work because of Raghavan’s sheer visual artistry, but the problem is that these sequences keep making way for the trite formula found in most Abbas-Mastan movies. The film’s best moment involves a stunning single-shot scene to the backdrop of the song “Raabta”.
Agent Vinod doesn’t explode—it fizzles with a damp whimper. Unless you like your whacky spy thrillers in heavy-handed doses, you’re better off watching the real thing—superstar Balakrishna’s Vijayendra Varma on YouTube.