‘Don 2′ Review
In the end, ‘Don 2’ is the prime example of style over substance that disappoints.
The blessing of actually making a sequel to a remake of a movie that never had a sequel is that the filmmakers have unlimited directions to take the story. But sometimes the blessing is a curse. ‘Don’ is actually considered as one of the few successful remakes in Bollywood and managed to be a slick Hollywood-like thriller with an unpredictable twist ending. But aside from more slick visuals, ‘Don 2’ has nothing to offer. From the screenplay itself, it’s baffling to witness how much went wrong here. It’s not only a crushing disappointment but makes you believe that ‘Don’ may just have been a fluke.
The story follows Don (Shah Rukh Khan) five years later and still on the run from authorities around the world. But one fine day, he turns himself to the police department and gets arrested by Roma (Priyanka Chopra) who he had a past with. But we soon realize that Don has a master plan for being in prison in the first place and aims to assemble a team in the form of Vardhan (Boman Irani) and a mysterious new hacker (Kunal Kapoor) in order to steal original currency plates from the biggest bank in Germany.
I can’t even begin to describe the things that Farhan Akhtar did wrong here which is surprising because he’s a great filmmaker himself. But he’s completely out of form here with a screenplay that belongs to another movie entirely. ‘Don’ has always been a chase movie and the first movie remained faithful to that spirit. ‘Don 2’ however takes a bizarre change in genre and decides to become a heist movie instead. Right from the first scene, one can begin to notice how off the film feels. We’re introduced to Don in a big action scene that never amounts to anything and soon after, he puts himself into prison. You’d think looking at the previews that the prison break aspect is a major element of the film (which actually would be promising) but you would be dead wrong. It was a tacky addition just to lure in viewers. In reality, Don escapes prison quicker than it takes you to leave your house. Even the method he uses to escape isn’t clever in the least bit. In fact, it’s extremely stupid and cartoonish. But alright, that’s still fine as long as the film has something much more interesting in store. Maybe Don is planning to clear his name or has a master-plan to fool the cops even further? Nope, turns out he just wants to steal some expensive plates. No bigger reason for it. He just wants to steal something very expensive. End of story.
And that’s where the film goes very wrong. The iconic character of Don has been reduced to a small-time crook in this film and that aspect feels completely out of place. But you know what? Fine, let’s give them that. If they really wanted to go the heist movie route instead of the chase movie it should have been, that’s alright. But the heist itself is one of the blandest heists I’ve seen in quite a while. Almost everything you see is ripped off from better Hollywood movies. There’s the same old vault, same old guards surrounding it, same old lift hatch opening to enter places, same old double crossing mid-heist, same old disabling of the security cameras. Every single element of the heist is hackneyed and written in the laziest possible manner. It’s like Farhan Akhtar happened to watch a lot of Ocean’s movies and decided to make one of his own but was contractually obligated to do ‘Don 2’ so decided to make them one film anyway. And when you compare these heist scenes to the extremely clever and inventive similar sequences from ‘Ghost Protocol’ that released a week ago, the film really falls flat in the imagination department. The first half of the film is pretty slow moving and nothing really begins to happen until the intermission. It picks up during the second half where the pacing is faster and more things are happening but sadly the events here are extremely predictable.
That’s another problem with the movie – predictability. The first ‘Don’ managed to surprise the hell out of us with its twist ending because everyone expected a straight remake of the original and no one was expecting the game-changing twist that the movie cleverly put in front of the audience. It was a genuine surprise that came off as clever even if it didn’t really hold up on repeat reviews. But when it comes to a sequel, the audience is already wary and is looking for twist at every turn. A skilled filmmaker would use this audience pre-conception to his advantage and lead them to believe that one twist will happen and actually surprise them once again with something completely different. The ‘Saw’ movies in Hollywood have been doing this for eight years and almost always end up surprising you at the end. But here, the twists are weak and can be projected from a mile away. In fact, I bet a careful audience member will see it coming half an hour before it actually happens. And yet still, when the ending happens we are treated to an elaborate flashback as if it’s the cleverest thing that ever happened ripe with detailed narration. Which is another problem with the film – it’s too on-the-nose. Every single plot point of the film is either narrated through flashfowards and flashbacks or shown again and again until it’s hammered into your head. The dialogues are bland aside from a few attempts at catchphrases and there’s nothing witty about villains talking to each other in the most generic way possible.
The only saving grace of the movie is the visual slickness that it holds. The first ‘Don’ was a stylish affair and right from the chase scenes to the action sequences, it tried to mimic the big-budgeted action movies from Hollywood that we’re used to seeing and was quite successful in its aim. Here, things are ratcheted up a notch and ‘Don 2’ is the closest Bollywood has come to looking like a full-on Hollywood production which is a compliment. The production design and visuals look A-grade and that helps the movie majorly during its dull spots. The action scenes in particular are ramped up this time around and although they are nothing new, they are an enjoyable diversion from the mundane plot. Too bad the movie released just a week after ‘Ghost Protocol’ where Tom Cruise jumps off Burj Khalifa, because it totally stole the thunder out of the otherwise impressive scene of Shah Rukh Khan jumping down a skyscraper in Germany. The action improves in the second half with some fist fights that impress and overall most general audiences won’t look past this layer and will mostly be content with the surface action the film provides to make up for a lack of depth of any sort.
Shahrukh Khan once again gets to be in touch with his negative side with a role custom-made for him and has quite some fun saying the iconic one-liners. This might be his most physical performance yet in terms of the stunt work involved and the energy given, but there are parts where he hams it up trying to overdo the bad guy image. Priyanka Chopra has a surprisingly limited role here but does her character justice in whatever runtime she has. Boman Irani is effective in parts but other times just looks awkward saying some of the dialogue given to him. Kunal Kapoor has a small role and doesn’t really make an impact. Om Puri sleepwalks his way through his role and so does the rest of the cast. There’s a pretty stupid and tacky cameo here by another A-lister that I’ll keep as a surprise.
In the end, ‘Don 2’ is the prime example of style over substance. It may provide high-flying thrills by Bollywood standards, but a weak screenplay that never feels true to its roots coupled with predictable and lazy plotlines pretty much ensures that the filmmakers never really tried as hard here after their first outing. A good watch for Shahrukh Khan devoteers, but a crushing disappointment for the rest.