Crackdown review: Despite a brisk plot, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Saqib Saleem’s crime thriller fails to leave a mark

Helmed by Apoorva Lakhia, Voot Select’s Crackdown revolves around an anti-terrorist squad deployed on a secret mission to track down a dangerous nexus

Shreya Paul September 24, 2020 08:12:12 IST
Crackdown review: Despite a brisk plot, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Saqib Saleem’s crime thriller fails to leave a mark

Voot Select's Crackdown poster. Image from Twitter

A country wrought with a fresh terrorist threat; an undercover intelligence group working day and night to track the miscreants and bring them to task, all the while risking their lives for the well-being of the nation — Crackdown’s plot, if not hackneyed, is definitely not a fresh one. The latest espionage thriller from Voot Select, Crackdown follows close on the heels of the much-acclaimed Asur.

The eight-episode web series follows a special DO (Direct Operations) unit within intelligence bureau RAW, that’s headed by Ashwini (Rajesh Tailang). The DO aims at identifying possible threats and eliminating them before they can transform into national dangers.

Crackdown review Despite a brisk plot Shriya Pilgaonkar Saqib Saleems crime thriller fails to leave a mark

Saqib Saleem in a still from Crackdown

Apoorva Lakhia’s mettle as a director of fast-paced, staccato thrillers shines through and the series succeeds in capturing audience attention till the very last. Crackdown also boasts of a formidable cast, studded with young talent who have proved their craft on web/television. At the helm of the operation is agent Riyaaz Pathan (Saqib Saleem). Other notable actors in the series are Shriya Pilgaonkar (Divya/Mariam) and Tariq (Ankur Bhatia). Tailang’s maturity and ability to withhold himself is praiseworthy (no surprises there). With his body of work on screen, the character actor is slowly but steadfastly cementing his place as an extremely bankable artiste for filmmakers.

Crackdown review Despite a brisk plot Shriya Pilgaonkar Saqib Saleems crime thriller fails to leave a mark

Rajesh Tailang plays Ashwiny, the head of DO

The series begins with a sudden raid on a terrorist camp that provides crucial leads for the DO team when they procure a pen drive filled with names of secret agents and their past missions. Alert that they have been exposed, the DO team launches a full-fledged investigation to uncover the militants and their nefarious activities.

Series writers Chintan Gandhi and Suresh Nair build a believable world where the looming threats feel tangible and deadly, but the characters somehow whizz past before leaving any lasting impression. The experience of watching Crackdown is almost akin to being witness to a video game on secret intelligence agencies gunning down their enemies, all packaged in a brisk narrative. But you hardly ever consider investing in the characters of the virtual game, much like in Crackdown. Background stories are never delved into, and neither are their motives for their actions justified. However, to the writers’ credit, the thriller keeps viewers involved with considerable plot twists and revelations.

Crackdown review Despite a brisk plot Shriya Pilgaonkar Saqib Saleems crime thriller fails to leave a mark

Shriya Pilgaonkar's character portrayal is both sincere and believable.

Even though most roles receive justified treatment, some stand out like sore thumbs. Iqbal Khan as RAW’s deputy chief Zorawar suffers from the oft-seen TV serial hangover, in that, he packs oodles of acting per square unit area in his few scenes. Zorawar’s bad-boy image is embellished with unnecessarily expletives and stands in cringe-worthy contrast to Tailang’s understated calm that Ashwiny brings in.

The other chink in the armour is the stale background scores that pull down the momentum of the show at important junctures. Introduction sequences, special reveals, and even the climax sequence suffer from a heavy-handed and jarring treatment of music, till a point of discomfort.

Despite being a genuine cinematic effort, the series says very little. Even though the pieces for the jigsaw fit, the entire picture seems blurry, or more importantly, not important enough to give it a second thought. Crackdown may pack a sucker-punch with its storyline but fails to leave a mark after the end credits start rolling.

Crackdown premiered on Voot Select on 23 September.

(All images from YouTube) 

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