Wanted is a movie with an identity crisis. Is it a gruesome action flick? A mafia thriller? A slapstick comedy? A scathing critique of police corruption? A romantic drama? A musical?
The film contains elements of all these genres, and as a result, Wanted is a schizophrenic mess.
Salman Khan plays Radhe, an uber-cool thug who can take down a roomful of bad guys single-handedly. He’s the kind of guy to whom you’d apply a tagline like, “Every man wants to be him. Every woman wants to be with him.”
Of course Radhe’s trumped up machismo makes him completely unrelatable and unlikable, but the filmmakers go with it anyway.
Radhe works as a hired gun with no allegiance to the feuding mafia dons who hire him. He’s got three loafer buddies who conveniently show up whenever the girl of Radhe’s dreams, Jhanvi (Ayesha Takia), walks by, triggering dream sequence dance numbers.
The beautiful Jhanvi is pursued by the lecherous, corrupt police inspector Talpade, giving Radhe plenty of opportunities to come to her rescue. Jhanvi falls for Radhe until he kills about twenty guys in front of her (hey, they shot at him first!), making her question whether he’s marriage material after all.
Eventually, the biggest don around comes to town, and things get really bloody. There are rapes, kidnappings and beatings, and the police seem unable or unwilling to do anything about it. Jhanvi has Radhe to protect her, but is that enough when the rest of the world is falling apart?
Now, don’t let me mislead you. The plot isn’t nearly as straightforward as I’ve made it seem. There are several unnecessary dance numbers, as well as a subplot involving Jhanvi’s portly landlord, whose every entrance is announced by either a dopey musical theme or elephant sound effects.
All of this nonsense occurs amidst graphic, bloody deaths and frequent instances of sexual violence against women. Mahesh Manjrekar is exceptionally slimy as Inspector Talpade, who at one point proposes to Jhanvi’s mom an arrangement in which he gets to rape both of them at will.
Immediately following this uncomfortable scene, the inspector walks outside and finds the fat landlord trying to hide behind a tiny potted plant. The inspector punches the landlord in the eye, knocking him down. When he comes up, his eye is surrounded by a circle of black makeup — an instant, comic black eye! Then the inspector does the same to the landlord’s other eye. Goofy music plays in the background.
The juxtaposition of these two scenes highlights Wanted‘s misogyny. That the movie seems to suggest that the only way for a woman to save herself from this systematic violence is to find a muscly guy like Salman Khan to protect her just worsens the insult.
Don’t worry, ladies. At least you get to see Salman with his shirt off. That makes up for Wanted‘s cavalier attitude toward rape, right?