Force 2 movie review: Slick mix of action, John Abraham, suspense and an appealing villain
Force 2 is the kind of film Bollywood buffs like to call paisa vasool.
castJohn Abraham, Sonakshi Sinha, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Adil Hussain, Narendra Jha
It is hard to find a film that does not promise an iota more of anything than what it intends to deliver, and then efficiently delivers on its promise. Force 2 is an intense action flick that serves up slick stunts and technical finesse to support its straight-laced storytelling style.
Director Abhinay Deo’s latest film is a sequel to Nishikant Kamat’s Force (2011), which starred John Abraham and Genelia D’souza. That film in turn was a remake of the 2003 Tamil blockbuster Kaakha Kaakha directed by Gautham Menon, starring Suriya Sivakumar and Jyothika.
Force did not have Kaakha Kaakha’s emotional heft, but it did have gripping, not-before-seen action plus a villain worth living and dying for. Its Achilles heel was the casting of the heroine. Four years since Force, the franchise repeats the mix, giving us gripping action once again, a solid villain and a contentious heroine.
Abraham is back in Force 2 as a well-intentioned Mumbai policeman who does not play by the book because the book, in his opinion, can tie a good cop down. In the years since Yashvardhan lost his wife (played by D’souza) in the first film, he has remained as strong-willed, impertinent and determined to vanquish evil as he was back then. When a bunch of agents of the Indian intelligence agency RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) are exterminated in well-planned back-to-back killings, Yash enters the picture to find out why and to prevent further deaths.
The case lands him in beautiful Budapest. His partner and supposed boss in this mission is RAW officer KK, Kamaljit Kaur, played by Sonakshi Sinha. KK is to the always-defiant Yash what chalk is to cheese, so of course they clash repeatedly.
Together, they find themselves up against an antagonist who somehow manages to stay ahead of them every step of the way. Shiv Sharma (Tahir Raj Bhasin) is driven by an unexplained grouse against RAW and India. It is evident from the moment we meet him that Yash and KK will solve the case when they crack the reason for his animosity.
The purposefulness of this film’s writing is both its strength and its weakness. Parveez Shaikh and Jasmeet K. Reen are here to entertain us with suspense and unrelenting skirmishes – involving wit, guns and fisticuffs – and they do that well. If only they had paid more attention to the characterisation of Yash and KK, Force 2 would have been more than just that.
Yash relies almost entirely on our pre-existing investment in him from the previous film, on Abraham’s dimpled charm and the actor’s unapologetic willingness to be objectified without denting his dignity in the way Hindi cinema tends to do with women. However, we do not see enough of the character’s journey here, nothing much to add to the Yash we already know from Force.
The film’s potentially most interesting element is the most problematic. Leading ladies in Hindi cinema are rarely in positions of authority over leading men, and they are certainly rarely at the centre of hard-core action cinema. KK, then, is a fascinating proposition. Having envisioned her though, the writers give her short shrift.
Sections of Bollywood these days are taking a long, hard look at the way women have been straitjacketed in films since the 1970s. While some are ushering in genuine change, too many are struggling to pull themselves out of the morass of their own misogyny. Sinha earlier this year starred in Akira, which made a woman the central figure in an all-out action-reliant drama but then spent so little time on fleshing her out as a human being, that the most engaging character in the film turned out to be her arch enemy – who was a man ... of course. Deo & Co are better in the sense that their KK is not a one-line concept note. We do get to see her for the person that she is. Still, she is a RAW agent who screws up on an important assignment in a way you know the male lead of this kind of Hindi film would not, and when it comes to the crunch, she still needs a man to be decisive on her behalf and have the last word.
The saving grace of the Yash-KK equation is that despite the hint of a romance between them, the film does not go too far in that direction. This is a good thing, since Sinha looks like a child in comparison with Abraham. The actress does a fair job of what she is given to do, but I wish she had been given more to do and the screenplay had been less patronising towards KK.
The best written character in Force 2 is Shiv Sharma, a criminal who is both cold-blooded and nuanced, a man we can fear yet empathise with without the film getting too maudlin in its portrayal of him. Tahir Raj Bhasin is wonderfully controlled in his execution of Shiv, making him as intriguing as Vidyut Jamwal’s Vishnu was in Force yet completely different.
Bhasin earlier delivered an excellent performance as Rani Mukerji’s bête noir in Mardaani (2014). Hopefully we will not have to wait another two years to see him again on the big screen.
Although Force 2’s USP is its action, it is not an all-brawn-no-brain venture. The film does raise a significant emotive point about intelligence gathering. When people sign up to spy on behalf of a country, they are aware that if found out, the very country they seek to serve will disown them. An espionage agent may accept that professional hazard as part of the game, but is there a way of serving the greater national good without writing people off?
Force 2 brings up this question gently in the narrative without any chest-thumping, then lets itself down with the needless mush in the text flashing on screen in the end, text that comes across as an afterthought in a bid to tap into the loud mindlessness of the ‘patriotic’ herd that has dominated public discourse in India in the past couple of years.
Until that point though, the film is nicely matter-of-fact in its discussion on national interest. It is also such a relief to see Force 2’s portrayal of RAW when contrasted with the amateurishness of the spy story in last year’s Akshay Kumar-starrer Baby directed by Neeraj Pandey.
Force 2 is not earth-shatteringly memorable, but it is fun. Abhinay Deo must share a large part of the credit for that with action director Franz Spilhaus, cinematographers Mohana Krishna and Imre Juhasz who make us participants in the proceedings, Amitabh Shukla & Sanjay Sharma’s sharp editing and the doggedness of John Abraham’s bath towel that does not get dislodged from his waist until the very end of an extended, physically challenging fight.
This is the kind of film we Bollywood buffs like to call paisa vasool.
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