There’s a lot going on in the subtext of Crook regarding the different facets of racism and the immigrant’s struggle to balance integration with tradition. With a different structure– one that allowed the subtext more time to develop — Crook could’ve been a truly memorable movie.
The hero of Crook is Jai (Emraan Hashmi), a small-time video pirate in India. His adoptive father sends him to Australia under a false identity in order to give Jai a fresh start. Jai starts his new life in Melbourne as Suraj, a taxi driver working his way to permanent residency (unless he can find a cute Australian woman to marry first).
Two Aussie women catch Jai’s eye: a blonde stripper named Nikki (Shella Alan) and a student of Indian descent named Suhani (Neha Sharma). Nikki quickly falls for Jai, but Suhani’s strict brother, Samarth (Arjan Bajwa), intends to marry her to someone else.
Further complicating matters is a series of racially motivated attacks on Indian-Australians by white Australians. Suhani tries to bring Australians of all colors together and is frustrated by Jai’s unwillingness to get involved. Jai fears attracting police attention by participating in protests. If the police discover his true identity, he could be sent back to India.
Crook portrays racism as a two-way street. The white Australians who attack Indians are villains, but so are traditionalists like Samarth, who rejects Australian culture in the hopes of recreating India on a new continent. The only innocents are people like Suhani, who respects the values of her family as much as the values that dominate her adopted homeland.
Such nuance presents a problem in that it makes Jai’s decision not to take a stand look decidedly unheroic. He spends most of the movie running away from trouble. While it makes sense given his false identity, the threat of deportation isn’t as imminent or thrilling as, say, the threat of death.
Further, since the audience knows that eventually Jai has to get involved, he needs to take a stand much earlier in the film than he does. It takes more than half of the movie before Jai finally tells Suhani the truth about his past. Even then, he still insists that the racial tension inflaming the city isn’t his problem. A film hero needs to take charge of his destiny in a more definitive way than Jai does.
While the set up of the love story is fine, it doesn’t leave enough time for the action in the second half of the movie to unfold. When violence breaks out, characters undergo abrupt personality changes and plot points feel rushed.
Overall, Crook is a fun ride with some interesting moral observations. It just falls a bit short of its potential.