The good news – Agent Vinod taps the Don films on the shoulder and asks them to piss off. The bad news – the film is not as smart and entertaining as it thinks it is.
Starring Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor, Agent Vinod runs around aimlessly with a collection of goofy illogicalities. But that would have been fine had the film completely devoted itself to being a tacky tongue in cheek garish comedy thriller the way the 1970’s film of the same name was. Unfortunately this film seems like an unappetizing byproduct oozing out of a blender stuffed with Sunny Deol’s Hero: The Love Story of a Spy, Anubhav Sinha’s Dus and Akshay Kumar’s Mr Bond. The fact that director Sriram Raghavan has made the excellent Ek Haseena Thi and the magnificent Johnny Gaddar gives one the impression that the final cut of Agent Vinod is not the film he originally wanted to make. It’s beautifully shot, but it clumsily dances on the line between the merely passable and the completely boring. In fact even the much acclaimed trailer of the film was misleading, because most of the good stuff doesn’t even appear in the movie.
The story is hideously convoluted - Agent Vinod (Saif Ali Khan) is a super spy in a super-secret Indian intelligence agency. He escapes from Afghanistan from the clutches of terrorist leader Huzefa (Shahbaz Khan from Chandrakaanta) and is handed a new assignment by his boss (BP Singh, the creator of CID) – to stop an escalating terror attack in the country. The mission takes him (and us) through all sorts of snazzy places including Latvia, Russia, Morocco, Delhi and even Karachi, where he meets strange farcical characters like a drug running African sheikh (a hamming Prem Chopra), his personal doctor (Kareena Kapoor), a faux Indo-Russian warlord (a hilarious Ram Kapoor, speaking in Russian accent), various clandestine conspirators (Dhritiman Chatterjee, Adil Hussain, Gulshan Grover). The locales are gorgeous, but that doesn't necessarily make for a smart movie. Moreover, the second half and finale are so clichéd that even a novice moviegoer would know exactly what would happen twenty minutes in.
There are a few action scenes, but they’re poorly choreographed and shot – it is impossible to make out what’s going on. It doesn’t help that some of the CGI is dubious. Product placements are a plenty – most of Agent Vinod feels like being stuck in a never-ending commercial starring a glamorous real life couple. Saif and Kareena reprise the chemistry that they shared in Tashan, but sadly the soulless hangover from that movie seems to have carried on in Agent Vinod. The film at times breaks into trippy segments that are juxtaposed to classic Hindi songs and out of place sound effects. These actually work because of Raghavan’s sheer visual artistry, but the problem is that these sequences keep going away to make way for the trite formula found in most Abbas Mustan movies. The film’s best moment involves a stunning single shot scene to the backdrop of ‘Raabta’ – it truly makes you wish Raghavan was given more control of the script and editing.
Agent Vinod doesn’t explode – it fizzles with a damp whimper. Unless you like your whacky spy thrillers in heavy-handed doses, you’re better off watching the real thing – superstar Balakrishna’s Vijayendra Varma on YouTube.
(First published in Mumbaiboss)