|Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Omi Vaidya, Sikander Kher, Bobby Deol, Johnny Lever, Vinod Khanna, Aftab Shivdasani|
The central concern for this writer was not whether our Hindi version would slaughter the original’s soul. But that the Hindi version would look and feel outdated. It’s a remake twice over, so in essence, it has two versions to adapt from. (Players is an official remake of 2003 Hollywood film The Italian Job, which itself was a remake of the 1969 classic.)
Now, barring a few elements, The Italian Job (1969) was a delight. The 2003 version tweaked the story, but kept the chases and the Mini Coopers. Sadly, Players sucks the soul out of the original material, infesting it with old-school, formulaic masala.
It was once a Bollywood belief that a film about criminals automatically lent itself to character names like Charlie, Ronnie, Victor Fernandez, and Spider. That’s boring and outdated, perhaps even offensive.
Charlie, our central protagonist, is played by Abhishek Bachchan (consistent stern expression) who’s been carrying around this demeanour from Dhoom to Dum Maaro Dum. He plays the “criminal mastermind”, the “biggest player”, but his character overflows with the milk of human kindness. He’s sensitive to his team, worries over a little orphan girl, sacrifices everything to save an undeserving traitor and so on.
The others on the team include an illusionist (Bobby Deol, miscast), an explosives expert (his name’s Bilal; oh ya, you better believe it), a prosthetic pro (Omi Vaidya), a mechanical genius who’s also a master seducer (Bipasha Basu), and a computer hacker (Sonam) who’s also a master seducer (please note master seducers means plenty of spicy songs).
They’ve all come together for a heist (the characters’ introduction scene in an operation theatre is unintentionally ROFL). The idea is to rob gold from under the Russian government’s nose. The mafia’s after the 10 thousand crore booty as well. But our players are on top of it, and finish the job even before we get to know them properly.
The plot thickens when one of them turns out to be a traitor. This person then proceeds to do all the bad guy things—he develops an evil laugh, a lavish bungalow, and a special chair that sits on a world map.
Like in Race, directed by Abbas-Mustan in 2008, the story takes pride in “surprising” the audience with twists and turns. The directors OD on the twists even as the viewer is made to swallow yet another improbable and illogical development.
For “humour” you have Johnny Lever playing twins named MC and BC. The other stuff is hilarious but unintentionally so. Like a group analyzing a robbery and deducing it was by a female thief, as the changed setting of a flower vase gave away the thief’s aesthetic sense.
The overdose of cheesy morality is jarring and a desperate bid to justify the criminal acts of our central protagonists. So a gang leader says he wants this one last big heist because he wants to help orphaned children and another where, in a filmi death scene, the baddie apologizes before popping it.
The acting is bad across the board, save Neil Nitin Mukesh’s over-the-top yet entertaining performance. The music is disappointing, especially since Abbas-Mustan’s films are known for chart-busting numbers.
One wondered how Players would recreate the iconic car chase from The Italian Job. The film is on par here—the car chase with the three candy-coloured cars is photographed and executed superbly.
So yes, the film’s best portions are the ones where it borrows directly from the source; the minute it diverts and adds Bollywood masala, the film stagnates. After all, we’ve seen the same things over and over again in the name of heist thrillers since decades. If you’re in for yet another one, go for gold.
Rating: Two stars