An all-around bad film that miserably fails in Indianizing ‘The Italian Job’.
While Indian cinema has been unofficially ‘remaking’ Hollywood movies for decades now, ‘Players’ is one of the big budget movies which the distinction of actually purchasing rights for the 2003’s star-studded heist movie ‘The Italian Job’ and giving it the Indian make-over. And unfortunately, all that ‘Players’ ends up proving is that even an official remake can be a very bad film. Barring a couple of decent thrills, ‘Players’ is a wash-out with inane dialogue, a messy screenplay and direction by Abbas Mustan where every attempt to Indianize it fails miserably.
The film follows Charlie (Abhishek Bachan) and Riya (Bipasha Basu) who do elaborate con-jobs occasionally and are experts at it. When they find out that Russia is going to be transporting a train full of gold to Romania, they decide to build a larger team in the form of a hacker (Neil Nitin Mukesh), a make-up man (Omi Vadya), and two others (Bobby Deol and Sikandar Kher) to interrupt the transaction and perform the heist under the guidance of their mentor Victor (Vinodh Khanna). But when an unexpected betrayal at the end of the heist leaves them in the dust, they re-assemble and enlist Victor’s daughter (Sonam Kapoor) to take revenge from the traitor in the form of a grand heist.
The 2003 movie wasn’t the greatest film by any stretch of imagination, but it was an enjoyable blockbuster that escalated the thrill and action without needlessly complicating the plot. It was part revenge and part heist movie that did its job well and nothing more. This lesson wasn’t learned by the producers when they gave the film to none other than the directing duo Abbas Mustan, who are most known for their twisty thrillers ‘Humraaz’ and ‘Race’ that pile twist after twist. That can be thrilling in the kind of movies that they do, but are a kiss of death here. Simply put, this remake fails right from the choice of directors and we haven’t even moved on to the screenplay yet.
Whereas the original had the major betrayal plot point happen about ten minutes into the film and the rest of the movie being about the revenge heist, the Bollywood remake doesn’t operate on such simple terms. No, the betrayal here has to happen at the intermission of the film. But the problem would be – what then happens during the first hour of the film leading up-to that point? And here’s where the movies’ unwatchable segments lie. When left to craft an original plot, ‘Players’ is astoundingly bad. The heists are awfully staged and every single character has zero character development. Things do not make sense and the film is the most choppily edited movie I’ve ever seen. The entire first hour is just the gang hanging around and seems like unbearable filler until the important stuff begins to happen.
I will give the film props for possibly the only worthy sequence in the film which is the train heist that happens before the intermission. Though it’s ridiculous to the n’th degree, the chase that ensues is well-staged and actually thrilling in the vein of the original. There are also some inventive gadgets involved here with some genuine obstacles in their way. Overall, this scene stands as the highlight of the film. The scene that follows is actually pretty clever in one way – it’s the only unpredictable twist of the entire film. The writers smartly play on our knowledge of the first film and with a smart bit of misdirection, come up with a twist that genuinely surprises you. Enjoy this moment thoroughly though, because it’s the last decent moment in the entire film.
Everything else post-interval is a disappointing mess. The plot doesn’t make any sense and things that work so perfectly in the original are instead Indianized here to a point that they are hilarious to watch. The song and dance numbers are weak and placed jarringly into the narrative, while the actual heist itself follows the original closely yet lacks the buildup to make it pay off. There’s hardly any scenes of them actually figuring out or planning the heist and soon enough it’s already in action. Another major thing that kills the film is the melodrama that has been needlessly added to the story. There are major segments where a melodramatic music plays and characters are talking to each other about how much they love them or miss them. These elements make sense in a traditional Indian film, but not in a fast-paced caper of this sort where it just kills the momentum to the ground. Then comes the finale, which is suitably overblown. Instead of resolving it in a satisfying manner, insane twists are thrown towards the audience that they saw coming a mile ago but never thought the filmmakers would be dumb enough to actually have them. For every double-crossing, there’s a guy who knew this the whole time and had already planned it out. But then comes a guy who knew that too and had his own counter-plan. Add to that overlong flashbacks that state the obvious and the finale pretty much becomes one bad monologue after another. And before you know it, credits roll. It’s astounding to see how they got such a simple film wrong in so many ways.
The acting is bad on pretty much all fronts, with only Abhishek Bachan managing to be decent in his role. Neil Nitin Mukesh is a good actor but the role he’s given here is something the actor is incapable of performing and it’s very obvious how uncomfortable he is doing it. Add to that the inane dialogue he’s given which sometimes sound hilariously bad and you can see why this is a terrible performance. Sonam Kapoor is probably the worst working actress in Bollywood right now and gives a suitably awful performance where every single note is wrong. Omi Vaidya is funny here but he’s so wrongly used by filmmakers here that he gets grating very fast. Sikandar Kher and especially Bobby Deol have nothing at all to do in the film and are wasted in grand fashion. Bipasha Basu is decent but has a pretty pointless role in the narrative. Even a classic actor like Vinodh Khanna gives a spectacularly bad performance here. And I squarely blame this on Abbas Mustan’s awkward direction of a movie that they clearly didn’t know how to execute.
‘Players’ fails even as a mindless action movie thanks to its choppy and melodramatic screenplay and awful performances. There’s a couple scenes where they have something good going on, but they’re squandered by everything else that’s around them. The only people who’ve been ‘played’ here are the paying audiences.
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