Where to begin? I could tell you about the cartoon-ish special effects that makes the CGI in War of the Worlds (2005) look Oscar-worthy, or I could tell you about the volatile plot, depthless characters and amateurish dialogue. But the fact remains that despite these misgivings, it was hard not to get sucked into the lives of these God-awful characters, even (especially) when they broke out into rap songs. And actually, Race 2 is the epitome of popcorn cinema; an all-giving action film that never stops to give you a chance to breathe or get bored. Apart from during the interval.
If you’ve seen the trailer, you’re probably thinking that Race 2 is Bollywood taking full advantage of gorgeous people, luxurious hotels, lavish clothes, casinos, horse races, boxing, gambling, fast cars, dancing, shooting, fencing and singing. I promise you there is a story, the most complicated of all stories ever, but one that attempts to tie all these activities together (though not very well). After his wife is killed in a tragic car explosion that is the worst bit of special effects in cinematic history, Ranvir (Ali Khan) discovers that billionaire and casino owner Arman Malik (Abraham) is the man to blame for his wife’s death. In a ploy to avenge his wife, Ranvir befriends Arman, gaining his trust through a series of large (as in, billions) monetary scams which works in both Ranvir and Arman’s greedy favour, before wrecking havoc on Arman’s life. Ranvir also pretends to fall in love with Arman’s half-sister Elena (Padukone) as well as Arman’s girlfriend Omisha (Jacqueline Fernandez) after he learns that Omisha is his wife’s sister. But when Arman discovers that Ranvir is using him to avenge his wife’s death, the metaphorical ‘race’ for the ‘winner’ (of pride? Respect? Wealth? Your guess is as good as mine) begins.
Starting off as a reasonably straightforward story, Race 2 slowly begins to descend (after the first musical number) into an agglomeration of double crossings, triple crossings and quadruple crossings. The film leaves no prisoners, mercilessly bombarding you with hip hop, techno and what feels like dance music you left behind in the 90s. Nevertheless, the cinematography is a treat. Race 2 contains the kind of slo-mo walking-away-from-explosion shots you hoped never to see in a film again, but there’s no denying that it always looks good. Considering the fact that the characters delight in superficiality and place a heavy importance on appearance, it works in keeping with the film’s style. Having said that, it is precisely for this reason that Race 2 lacks any real substance or depth. If you’re looking for a culturally-significant Bollywood film, look away now.
The biggest letdown with Race 2 is its atrocious dialogue. The entire film was like a series of bad movie tag lines; a car crashing insult to screenwriting, i.e. “It’s sad that you have to give up a good habit… your habit of STAYING ALIVE” and “you are as good as any salad. Solid salad,” – answered with – “and now you want to make me into a liquid?”. Yuck. Proving that if you compare your lover to fruit (whilst moaning) it’ll win his affections, naturally. Even worse, all the women were either sluts, thieves, cheats or dumb as fuck. If you’re interested, it fails the Bechdel Test with flying colours. Speaking of flying colours, there actually were some genuinely enjoyable action sequences, including the removal of a speed sensitive bomb underneath a car that couldn’t slow down past 70mph. Ridiculously unrealistic, yes, but entertaining to the max. It was the sunglassses installed with a device enabling the wearer to change card suits or numbers during a poker game that took the chimerical biscuit, however.
Garish humour, try-hard stunts and stilted dialogue made Race 2 look flashy and banal. I may not be one for dissecting symbolical messages in films, but I couldn’t escape the fact that Race 2 was sending out a wholly inappropriate message to a mass audience: money is everything, trust no-one, exuberant material possessions will make you happy. At almost 3 hours long (including the interval), Race 2 loudly and visually dulls the senses so much so that by the time the last song came around there was nothing left in me to fight its brazen attitude anymore. And then I had an epiphany: like a guilty pleasure, stop taking yourself and it seriously, relax and let the crap dialogue and the bizarre characters do the talking. You’ll soon find yourself invested in their lives and rooting for one and then the other. One thing’s for sure, Race 2 never misses a thrill, constantly wild and wacky enough for you to just let it all unfold without moaning.