At some point well down the road in Race 3, as I slumped low in my chair, passing the time, a character said, ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this’. Ding dong, news flash: we could have told her that right in the beginning.
Given our experience of the Race franchise, we are fully prepared for bad guys, fast cars, faster gals, dazzling foreign locations, shiny dance-floor moves, locomotives that cost more than a good sized 2BHK flat, supersize mansions, and a thin plot spiced by a twist or two. It’s a template, but we are always up for tales with all of the above if they are smart and pacy enough.
The trouble with this third part is that it is neither. At two and a half hours, it is a scattershot snoozefest, perking up only when Salman Khan shows up. I never thought, constant reader, that I’d say this, but it has to be said: the only time Race 3 revs up is when Bhai and his lady love exchange a bit of banter: the hell-for-leather parts take a back seat.
When it came out in 2008, the first Race did something new: it got Bollywood A-listers to be cheerfully amoral. Not immoral, that one was old. Being plain bad could lead to redemption. And very often did. But big stars playing characters who were greedy, vicious and amoral, without a single mitigating reason (sick mother, tragic sister and so on), was something that got us to sit up and pay attention.
It helped that Abbas-Mustan, the two brothers who made Race, knew when to keep things down and dirty and when to break into song. Race 2, also helmed by them, trotted out the same formula, but by the then, it already felt stale.
Race 3 is nothing but a recycled bin of too many car chases, explosions, buffed up characters strutting in slo-mo, and wilted lines. The same character who had a ‘bad feeling’, also uses the word ‘so tacky’. Well, what else would you call a film which doesn’t do justice to its finest asset, Anil Kapoor? The superbly fit Kapoor is a left-over from the previous Race flicks, and he was an absolute hoot in both.
The rest of the cast, including Bobby Deol on a comeback trail, show up as and when. The men are beefy and arms akimbo, the women are togged out in tight sheaths and flowy tresses. Shah switches from flats to stilettoes, and back to heels again in a fight sequence. Fernandez, who also starred in Race 2, gets more screen time here, and a nice throwaway dialogue.
Race 3 is a crawl
The rest of the movie is a crawl. It’s left to Salman to come to the rescue, and he does his thing, but that thing, or those things, are now so jaded that even his fervent fans, sitting ahead of me, couldn’t bring themselves to cheer.
The patented by-and-for Bhai money shot, the Shirtless Salman, which is guaranteed to bring the house down, is also not, gasp, his alone. Deol Jr gets to go topless too, and we can tell you he wears his bronzer well. At least on this one score, all this while, Bhai has had no competition. And now this shameful dilution. Kya yaar.
Race 4 (yes, there will be, and that’s no spoiler) had better do a course correction.