There were moments in Race 2 when I really wanted to like the movie, if only my brain would let me. Giving any aspect of Race 2 more than a passing thought renders it utterly silly.
Race 2 picks up not long after the events of the original Race from 2008. (Though not essential, it does help to have seen the original film.) Ranveer Singh (Saif Ali Khan) arrives in Istanbul to cheat casino magnate Vikram Thapar (Rajesh Khattar) out of his properties in revenge for a wrong that Ranveer doesn’t immediately specify. Ranveer then transfers ownership of the casinos to street-fighter-turned-billionaire Armaan Mallik (John Abraham).
If Ranveer’s generosity toward Armaan seems too good to be true, that’s because it is. Ranveer’s really out to get revenge on Armaan for another unspecified wrong, but Armaan knows Ranveer’s out to get him. And Ranveer knows that Armaan knows that Ranveer’s out to get him. And then Ranveer steals the Shroud of Turin.
Race 2 owes a lot to early James Bond movies, what with characters always being one step ahead of each other and wielding crazy gadgets like Armaan’s digital playing cards, whose faces can be manipulated on an iPhone operated by his half-sister, Alina (Deepika Padukone). The characters also fall into the Bond villain trap of talking too much and over-complicating things when a bullet to the head would be a surer and simpler way to kill someone.
Anil Kapoor returns in the sequel as R.D., a goofy, now-retired detective with a soft spot for Ranveer. R.D. has a new, bubble-brained assistant named Cherry (Ameesha Patel) who exists only to provide R.D. opportunities to make double entendres. Jacqueline Fernandez plays Armaan’s girlfriend, Omisha, a woman with a connection to Ranveer’s girlfriend in the original Race, Soniya (Bipasha Basu).
Race 2 is the movie equivalent of an email written in all caps. Everything about it is relentlessly intense. It feels as though approximately forty percent of the movie consists of shots of characters strutting in slow-motion while a fan blows on them and a heavy metal guitar wails in the background. Directing duo Abbas-Mustan want to make sure that the audience is absolutely clear that Race 2 is AWESOME! SEXY! EXCITING! COOL!
Let me illustrate this with a video of the song “Allah Duhai Hai,” which sums up the intensity the movie tries to maintain for all of its two-and-a-half hours:
This excess could be funny if the movie had any sense of humor about itself, but it doesn’t. Ranveer, Armaan, Alina, and Omisha are all deadly serious as they double cross one another, no matter how ridiculous the circumstances.
Padukone and Fernandez are the two strongest performers in the cast, carrying off their roles with sex appeal and an air of danger. Kapoor and Patel are amusing enough, and Khan is competent as usual.
Abraham is the weak link. Despite being cast for his beefcake body, there’s nothing menacing about him. He’s supposed to be the most fearsome man in Turkey, but only if you’re dumb enough to challenge him to a fistfight.
The story moves quickly enough to hold one’s attention, even though everything that happens is silly and unable to be explained by the retroactive continuity Abbas-Mustan were obviously hoping would clear everything up. The Turkish-influenced musical score is the film’s best element. Race 2 is less annoying that the original Race, but that’s hardly a recommendation.