Singham Returns

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 08/17/14 08:11:55

"A simple police action movie bloated to Bollywood size."
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

Not having seen Ajay Devgn's first go-round as Bajirao Singham, I have no idea of this sequel - which stands alone well enough - is an improvement or disappointment relatively speaking. There are elements which suggest it could be either or both; the title character is a cut above most no-nonsense cops, but is stuck in a movie whose high stakes seldom translate into excitement.

Though he grew up in a smaller village, Singham is now working in Mumbai, where his reputation for honesty is not yet quite so well-known. His newest assignment will involve protecting Guruji (Anumpam Kher), the leader of a progressive political party fielding a slate of young, uncorrupted candidates in the coming election. This possess a threat to their uneasy allies in the current coalition government, rival party leader Prakash Rao (Zakir Hussain) and bogus spiritual leader Baba (Amole Gupte), who intend to take the election by spreading around "black money" - and it soon looks like one of Singham's most trusted men is delivering it.

That's not a bad story, and there's even a chance at a little more mystery-solving than is typical as Singham's team tries to figure out just how one of their own wound up dying while driving an ambulance full of dirty money, but it's far from complicated. Heck, it cuts from someone asking who would want to harm Guruji to Baba saying "me", and doesn't significantly complicate the conspiracy from there. It's probably a little bit too basic for a movie that runs close to two and a half hours without taking much of a turn at intermission. There is a bit of a romantic comedy subplot that chews up a little time, but the movie does not mix tones enough for the time it does go for something lighter to work.

At heart, it's a pretty straight ahead action movie of the rebel-cop variety, complete with catchphrase, but it's only got a couple of particularly eye-opening sequences, a decent shootout and a bit or two that are fun despite reminding the audience that CGI motor vehicles aren't for constrained by the laws of physics. That sort of bigger-than-reality style happens down at the hand-to-hand level too, and it's at least entertaining: Singham, whom the dialog tells me has a name that means "lion", has a signature move meant to mimic a lion swiping at prey, but which winds up looking like guys being slapped across the room from the wirework. It's right on the border of impressively effective and hilarious.

It's a good fit for Ajay Devgn in the title role, though. He plays the upright cop who nevertheless chafes at not being allowed to just beat villains senseless with a perfectly straight face that never dips into self-parody despite the way he swaggers through scenes, perfectly selling the audience on the character's sincerity while still having moments when he can show that the character is not quite a humorless automaton. Those mostly come opposite Kareena Kapoor, who gets the love interest part and sadly spends most of that time looking like a fool. The rest of the cast is decent enough, although Amole Gupte plays Baba right on the line of a villain to take seriously and a joke.

There are other problems here too - the endings seem poorly thought-out and implemented in multiple ways - and it's too bad, because there's the makings of a good old-fashioned cops-and-crooks movie in here. Maybe they'll find it if Singham returns again.

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