3 Stars (out of 4)
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Nothing in Agent Vinod makes any logical sense. It’s all crazy action that couldn’t possibly happen the way it does. Yet Agent Vinod is so fun and so totally committed to its insanity that I don’t care. I really, really liked this movie.
In simplest terms, Agent Vinod is a spy movie. A suitcase-sized nuclear device is stolen from Russia, and Indian spy Agent Vinod (Saif Ali Khan) follows the clues to Morocco. There, he poses as a courier to gain access to David Kazan (Prem Chopra), an international arms dealer with a suspicious personal physician named Ruby (Kareena Kapoor).
Vinod’s search for the nuclear device takes him all over the world: India, Pakistan, Russia, Latvia, England, even South Africa, just for kicks. Why the nuke was stolen is unimportant. What is important is that Vinod gets to fight a lot of people.
There are some spectacular set pieces and moments that are truly startling. For example, a car brakes to a stop, only to be immediately smashed into by another vehicle from out of frame. The effect is akin to a “gotcha” moment in a horror movie, and it’s delightfully effective.
Without a doubt, the film’s best scene is a shootout in the lobby of a fleabag motel in Latvia that is shot in a single take. The technical impressiveness of the scene is topped when an unlikely participant joins the shootout at the end of the scene. It was so unexpected, I laughed out loud.
In fact, I laughed out loud from sheer joy a number of times during Agent Vinod. It’s a great throwback to ’70s-era spy movies, right down to the garish interiors and the catchy “wakka chikka” guitar score that punctuates crucial events.
The special effects are also decidedly low-tech, but very well-executed. Most of the action is hand-to-hand combat or shootouts from close range. The only noticeable computer-generated effect involves a helicopter flying low over Delhi, and it stands out for looking fake.
Khan and Kapoor do an admirable job playing their roles completely straight. The costumer designer and tailors deserve an appreciative nod for making Khan look dashing in his perfectly fitted Oxford shirts.
Khan produced Agent Vinod, in addition to starring in it, which convinces me of one thing: I think this is exactly the film he set out to make. Yes, Agent Vinod is campy and preposterous, and it’s surely not for everyone. But I respect the fact that Khan and director Sriram Raghavan had a vision and executed it. If that relegates it to cult-film status, so be it. If it works for you (as it did for me), it really works.