Do not be fooled by how this film is being sold. On the face of it, you might expect a slick new-age action flick, but if that's what you want, you'd be sorely disappointed. Sure, it's called Race, it's got good looking people strutting around in grungy sets for theme songs, it's got Bipasha Basu in minimal attire, songs with a more than liberal dosage of hip lingo, and very slick promos. You'd be forgotten to think that it's almost Dhoom 3 you're walking into.
The film, much like its story, has nothing to do with the evidence on the face of it. This is a mystery thriller, crafted in much the same way Abbas-Mustan, the Burmawalla brothers, have been doing it since they established themselves with Baazigar (not their first, I know). The film relies on the tried and tested way the director duo has established their trade - twists and turns, cloakery and daggery, murder and blood, swaggering dudes and femme fatales.
So intense is the reliance of the film on these tropes that I can hardly begin to tell you the basic plot of the film. Suffice to say that prima facie, we have Ranvir Singh (Saif Ali Khan), a race horse ranch owner in Durban, who dotes on younger brother Rajiv Singh (Akshaye Khanna), a chronic alcoholic. Ranvir has begun dating Sonia (Bipasha Basu), while his secretary Sophia (Katrina Kaif) has a crush on him secretly.
There are some twists and character reversals, with some solid reveals, after which there is a murder most foul. The investigating officer assigned is Robert D' Costa (Anil Kapoor), with a penchant for fruit and a hair-brained secretary (Sameera Reddy). Needless to say, every character has arcs that lead one from plot twist to another, which keep coming on the film with alarming regularity. Anything else, and I would have spoiled the film for you.
Not that I wouldn't want to, you understand. I would much rather you spend your time watching better films, but you will anyway, we both know that. The incredibly twisted plot by Shiraz Ahmed on its own would have been good enough for my recommendation, too, you know, but I can't in good conscience recommend this feature when it fails on so many other levels.
In their new hipster avatar, the Burmawallas try hard to inject 'cool' into their film. The result is an awkward old man trying to pass off as awesomely hip by listening to hip-hop. Too many times, the stylized aspirations of the film mar the proceedings. The whole South Africa thing, for example - nothing comes out of the laboriously established South African rivalry between Saif and Dalip Tahil over their own horses and the stud farms they own. Equally insanely, almost all characters in the film are Indian, even the bit role extras, leading me to think they could have done without that extra coat of phoren.
There are the songs, too, which completely mar the proceedings every time they appear. Not only are they terribly shot and executed, they serve no purpose in the context of the film. While these ineffectual ways of being the new 'in' kids fail miserably, the old formula also has its cracks. Anurag Prapann and Jitendra Parmar write some of the most boring onscreen dialog in recent memory, with some extremely flat lines and painful innuendo laden jokes via Anil Kapoor.
The script falters a lot, mostly because of the unrelenting twists, so much so that some plot developments make no sense at all. I can't tell you what those are, but you'll find out if you see the film. Most criminal however is the fact that there is not one inspired shot in the whole movie. The film has some very basic cinematography, but beyond that there is nothing that really stamps an auteur's work, something the Burmawallas clearly aspire to be. Such a shoddily made film in these days? Criminal.
For its part, though, the story has some chutzpah to hold some of your interest, and is halfway-decent timepass. The rest of the time you may want to spend staring at the good looking people appearing on screen with fewer clothes each time as a way of halting boredom. If that's not your cup of tea, you may want to stay away from a film that is as forgettable as mundane thrillers turn out to be. Maybe I expected more from the directors, but there is no denying that the film is genuinely shoddily made, and is only a pretender to the throne.