Details: (MA15+), 137 mins, India,
Synopsis: A renegade cop (John Abraham) believes that the only way to eradicate crime is to shoot criminals, not arrest them.
Uneven cop drama unloads in second half.
Nishikanth Kamath’s retelling of the 2003 Tamil blockbuster Kaakha Kaakha might seem patently preposterous to all but the most tolerant lovers of Hindi film excesses; nonetheless, Force works its combination of sweaty, macho posturing and cutie-pie romance to maximum effect.
Piling on all manner of ‘80s B-grade action tropes (most of which were already old hat by the ’90s), Kamath’s film hits its stride post-intermission, when the director focuses on the energy of his set pieces rather than relying on the range of his lead actors. As no-holds-barred Narcotics Bureau wildcard Yashvardhan, John Abraham dominates every scene on account of sheer girth; recalling satirist Clive James’ description of a certain Austrian bodybuilder/action hero/California Governor as resembling a “condom stuffed with walnuts”, the tattooed Abraham is every inch a he-man throwback to when Stallone/van Damme/Seagal were in their masculine, monosyllabic prime.
His romantic foil is the doe-eyed, effervescent Genelia D'Souza, whose Maya initially fears the thuggish cop when she witnesses him beating a baddie with a motorcycle (that’s right, a motorcycle) but who soon convinces herself he is the soft-hearted one for her. Their blossoming romance all but dominates the film’s first half, and requires Abraham and D’Souza to exchange some contrived dialogue (he mumbles and broods; she’s giddy and/or weepy) and make cute in a series of montages, including an old-school ‘mirrors-in-the-desert’ musical sequence of which Russell Mulcahy would be proud.
Those led to believe Force would be a non-stop bloody actioner will need to wait out these sappy scenes; the film’s first 90 minutes only provides the barest of insights into the B-plot involving an international drug-running co-operative, overseen by Reddy (Mukesh Rishi) and the ‘Keyser Soze’-like psychopath Vishnu (the charismatic Vidyut Jamwal, in the film’s best performance). Having assembled an Untouchables-like array of morally-centred colleagues, Yashvardhan takes the fight to the cartel in a second act filled with the sort of rogue cop ultra-violence young male audiences lapped up 25 years ago. (It’s good to see the meat-hook back onscreen as a cop’s weapon-of-choice.)
Though Kamath and screenwriter Ritesh Shah don’t really have anything serious to say, there are some potentially inflammatory scenes in which Yashvardhan berates his superiors in general, and the Police Minister in particular, for their lack of decisive action against the murderers and drug-runners that infest modern Indian society. His speech could be taken as a call to vigilantism, of the people’s right to take on criminals outside of the law in much the same way our super-cop hero does, but it’s a long bow to pull to suggest that anyone would take his words to heart.
Despite its modern metropolis setting, everything about Force exists in that rarefied world of big-screen fantasy: police stations that look like the NASA control centre; isolated mansions built on the precipice of huge cliffs; impossibly coincidental meetings. It overplays its hand and overstays its welcome, but Force knows its audience will forgive its indulgences and respond favourably to its all-or-nothing approach.
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