‘Agent Vinod’ Review
An epic failure in creating a thrilling action franchise.
Making even the simplest action spy thriller is a hard job. You may find that hard to believe now, but not after you witness ‘Agent Vinod’ in action. Bollywood’s attempt at creating a globe-trotting action thriller akin to ‘James Bond’ has all the style but still manages to become a mess of a film that bears an awful screenplay, an overlong runtime and no sense of urgency to become a failure of a grand scale.
The film follows Agent Vinod (Saif Ali Khan), a RAW Agent who is trying to uncover and thwart a terrorist plot to detonate a nuclear bomb in Delhi right after his partner is mysteriously murdered. In his adventures, he meets a mysterious woman (Kareena Kapoor) who hides a tragic secret of her own, traitors among his organisation and a threat that could destroy the country if he doesn’t do something in time.
This is Saif Ali Khan’s production, who clearly wanted to make his own James Bond franchise with the film. And he did make sure a lot of the elements are in place – dozens of international locations, slick style, foreign villains, bomb threats, hot women and wisecracking one-liners among others. In fact, the plot is so simple and similar to ‘Ghost Protocol’ – Agent Vinod plans to thwart a nuclear bomb that is being set to explode in Delhi. It’s a straightforward and standard action movie plot, right? But ‘Agent Vinod’ manages to turn that into a convoluted and needlessly complex mess.
Major fault here lies within the screenplay itself, which is filled with redundancies. Instead of having one or two main villains that act as antagonists in the movie, it’s filled with more than a dozen bad guys scattered throughout the film. And I don’t mean nameless thugs that hover the main villain – I mean properly introduced characters played by name actors that you would think are going to be the villains but then proceed to get shot in the face a few minutes later. At one point, there are so many redundant characters in the film that Agent Vinod himself begins to feel like a supporting player. It’s like the screenwriters thought that the way to resolve any plot point is to introduce a brand new character and then killing him off after he’s done. The film also trots all around the globe just for the sake of glamour, and needlessly complicates the plot as it finds excuses to travel to places like Morocco, Russia, Somalia and others. There’s no real reason for things to organically happen other than the fact that they extend the film’s runtime. For example, Agent Vinod decides to take on the identity of a person called Freddie Khambata and there’s an entire plotline devoted to this silly affair, when nothing of note comes out of it. The first half especially has a very slack pacing and it never feels like the action-packed thriller it’s supposed to be like. This extends the film’s runtime to a painful two hours forty minutes and towards the end you’d be wishing for it to just roll credits already.
Which brings me to the editing of the film, which is one of the worst editing jobs I’ve seen since ‘Players’ was on screen a few months ago. While that movie had no idea how to tell a story, this one has no idea how to portray an action sequence on screen. In almost all of the action sequences, the editing is frantic and skips frames to such an extent that it feels like you’re watching a censored cut of the movie. Which is a shame, because there are some moments that would actually look impressive on screen if the editor ever allowed you to see what’s going on. This kills the only element that could have changed the fate of the film – a sense of thrill and adventure. I would give points to the director though, since there are some very quirky moments in the film that stand out as the highlight. One of them include an entire shootout set in a hotel which is shot in one cut which is quite well-done by Bollywood standards. Another of those moments include a tongue-in-cheek moment where the main characters are being chased by the bad guys on the street while a Charlie Chaplin movie plays on a huge screen in the background. This leads to the scene we’re watching itself turn into something of a silent film. It’s a shame that the entire film doesn’t follow through with this inventiveness and resorts to cookie-cutter plotting made worse by a malfunctioning screenplay. There are some comedic moments in the film that are actually hilarious, but it needed a lot more to offset the joyless vibe the film usually has.
Saif Ali Khan is obviously the star here, and honestly also the only actor who gives a very committed performance. He fits the role of a wisecracking Agent Vinod and actually plays his part with a lot of dedication and success. Maybe because his life savings are on the line with him being the producer, but he’s the only person who cares in this entire project. Kareena Kapoor is saddled with an entirely wasted character that has no consequence on the plot at all and is there just for show. It reflects in her performance which is as confused as her character’s reason to be in the story. Veteran actors including Prem Chopra and Gulshan Grover, as I mentioned before, are just there for the sake of it and are given nothing interesting to do.
‘Agent Vinod’ is not the worst action movie to hit cinemas this year since that honor goes to ‘Players’.. While the director’s vision does provide for some enjoyable moments, a messy screenplay and awful editing kill the film. Even the title is misleading because it has what sounds like ‘win’ in it, because what we have here is a completely failed attempt at being a competent spy thriller franchise.