2006’s Don was the first Hindi movie I saw in a theater, so it has a special place in my heart. It is a fun thriller with a sense of humor. Don 2 doesn’t do its predecessor justice.
In fact, Don 2 hardly even acknowledges the movie that spawned it. Sure, the international supervillain/anti-hero Don (Shahrukh Khan) is back, as is his archrival, Vardhaan (Boman Irani), and the cops Malik (Om Puri) and Roma (Priyanka Chopra). But five years have passed since the audience last saw this group together.
A few lines of dialog explaining Roma’s desire for justice — in the last movie, Don tricked her into falling in love with him after killing her brother — would’ve been helpful reminders for the audience. The movie’s few indirect references to past events are meaningless to anyone who missed the first movie.
Don 2 opens with a European drug kingpin putting a hit on Don. This sets up a huge fight scene in Thailand, but the storyline is subsequently dropped until the very end of the film. Surely, there must have been a way to trigger a fight scene in a way that relates to the rest of the plot.
The story truly begins when Don gets himself thrown into a Malaysian jail in order to help the imprisoned Vardhaan escape. Don wants to steal some money-printing plates from a bank in Germany, and Vardhaan has information that can be used to blackmail one of the head bankers. The former enemies put aside their mutual hatred and work together.
The story of the heist is amusing enough, and the cast members act their parts well. But the whole affair feels underwhelming, due primarily to the film being presented in 3D.
3D has the effect of dimming the images on screen, so Don 2 lacks the vibrancy of recent Excel Entertainment productions like Game and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. It’s a shame not to be able to see Thailand, Switzerland and Germany in their usual splendor. The 3D also dims the tiny English subtitles to near illegibility.
Apart from one exciting car chase through Berlin, there aren’t enough scenes that warrant the addition of 3D. Fight scenes in close quarters feel muddled by the effect, and the gimmick doesn’t enhance the story.
More disappointing than the lackluster visuals is the lackluster story, specifically Roma’s role in it. The film emphasizes a lingering romantic tension between Roma and Don but drops the ball in regard to her real reason for being in the film: she’s foremost a police officer intent on catching a notorious criminal. As she’s written, she’s not a very good police officer.
Roma is not only a step behind Don at all times, she’s a step behind the audience. She struggles to discern the identity of a man in a police sketch so accurate it might as well have the guy’s name written on it. The two times she manages to “capture” Don, it’s not a result of her police work. The first time, he turns himself in. Later, he’s ratted out by a co-conspirator.
It’s a real disservice to Chopra that her character is so poorly written. In Chopra’s hands, Roma is tenacious yet likeable, and handy in a fight. Lara Dutta’s moll character, Ayesha, similarly could’ve been better developed.
The experience of watching Don 2 isn’t entirely unpleasant. It’s a mostly-competent heist movie that gives a nod to earlier films in the genre, particularly in terms of its evocative musical score. But it could have — and should have — been so much more.