Today marks the Netflix streaming debut of Race 2, which opened in theaters on January 25, 2013. It’s a follow-up to 2008’s Race, which is also available for streaming on Netflix. A familiarity with the first film helps to explain some of the relationships in the second, but it’s not essential to understanding the plot of Race 2. I wasn’t a fan of either movie, but if you’re in the mood for mindless action, Race and Race 2 might fit the bill.
Also on April 10, the bizarre Hindi monster movie Hisss exits the Netflix streaming catalog. The film was plagued with problems throughout the production, and they are obvious in the final product. It will not be missed.
In other video news, Dabangg 2 makes its streaming debut on Eros Now on Friday, April 12 (though not in India). Dabangg 2 is available free to subscribers or as a premium rental for $1.99. 2010’s Dabangg is already available for streaming on the service.
2010’s Dabangg was such a good time that it set a high bar for its sequel. Dabangg 2 is almost as much fun, but it inadvertently raises some ethical questions about heroism and modern systems of justice.
Salman Khan returns as Chulbul Pandey, a charming, unstoppable supercop. Having cleared his small hometown of criminals in the first movie, Pandey requests a transfer to the larger city of Kanpur. Almost immediately, he becomes a hero to the citizens of Kanpur and the nemesis of a local gangster and aspiring politician named Baccha (Prakash Raj).
The opening twenty minutes of the movie are amazing. Scenes from the original Dabangg play during the opening credits to bring the audience up to speed. Then Pandey beats up a warehouse full of goons before abruptly breaking into song. It’s an obvious rehash of the best sequence from the original film, but it’s just as enjoyable the second time.
Chulbul Pandey is far an away Salman Khan’s best character of recent years. Unlike many of his other action roles that take themselves deathly seriously, Khan gets to have fun with Pandey. He plays pranks on his father (played by Vinod Khanna), flirts with his wife, Rajjo (Sonakshi Sinha), and is adored by his fellow police officers, with whom he’s willing to share credit for his good deeds. In this role, Khan is — dare I say — kind of cute.
Sinha, reprising her role from the first film, is a drag. Though Pandey dotes on Rajjo like the newlywed he is, she spends the whole film either annoyed or depressed. She perks up for a few dance numbers, but that’s it.
Similarly useless is Pandey’s younger brother, Makhi, played by Khan’s younger brother (and the film’s director), Arbaaz. The younger Khan delivers his lines flatly, and a long-running gag about Makhi trying to solve a riddle doesn’t survive the translation from Hindi to English. I appreciate Arbaaz Khan’s contributions behind the camera more than his contributions in front of it.
The story is slow to get going. It’s obvious that there will eventually be a showdown between Pandey and Baccha, but Baccha doesn’t make any real threats against Pandey or his family until the mid-point of the movie. The climactic showdown is worth the wait.
The impetus for Baccha to act comes when Pandey brutally murders one of the bad guys in front of a crowd of people that includes his fellow police officers, rather than take the bad guy into custody. The story proceeds as though this is acceptable, and the morality of Pandey’s act is never discussed.
This is a problem because, until this point, Pandey is unquestionably virtuous. (I’m choosing to ignore his habitual thievery since he rarely steals from working-class people.) One of the gun-toting bad guys declares himself judge, jury, and executioner right before Pandey kills him, even though Pandey’s life isn’t in immediate danger. By ignoring the rules of democracy and bypassing the judicial system, how is Pandey any different from the man he kills?
Perhaps these are deeper questions than are supposed to be posed to a film about a guy who makes his entrance by driving a Jeep through a brick wall. Though the film is light on gore and skin, it’s not completely family friendly. In addition to Pandey’s morally troubling act, some of the brutality inflicted on his family is especially grim. After watching Dabangg 2, kids may have more questions for their parents than, “Did you see Salman hit that guy in the nuts with a pole?”
Every movie that stars Salman Khan is essentially the same. He plays a tough guy who doesn’t play by the rules who meets a girl who teaches him the meaning of love. There are action-packed fights, some awkward scenes of courtship and a few equally awkward dance numbers.
Typically, Khan’s movies are completely serious. The only attempts at humor are when Khan’s character berates and humiliates his underlings, and the jokes almost always fall flat.
Dabangg (“Fearless”) is the rare Khan vehicle that acknowledges the absurdity of his macho, alpha-male persona. Perhaps it’s just a chance for Khan’s younger brother, Arbaaz — the movie’s producer and co-star — to take the mickey out of his big brother. Whatever the reason, it’s easily the most enjoyable Salman Khan movie I’ve ever seen.
This time, Khan plays Chulbul Pandey, a cop who shakes down criminals for money. He nicknames himself “Robin Hood,” even though he keeps all of the money he steals for himself.
Dabangg opens with a fight in a warehouse. Chulbul takes on a gang of about a dozen criminals by himself, using only a firehose as a weapon. There are a few instances of Matrix-inspired special effects, but they are outshone by the intricate fight choreography, as Chulbul is surrounded by attackers.
The rest of the police force arrives while Chulbul exits the warehouse with a bag of pilfered cash. Asked what they should tell the higher-ups about the fight, Chulbul shoots a deputy in the arm, so that the officer can claim he was wounded in action and earn a promotion. Everyone is happy, and Chulbul walks away with the money.
The scene is immediately followed by a dance number to a tune about what a badass Chulbul is: “Hud Hud Dabangg.” The abrupt transition is hilarious, and the Khan brothers know it. As a fan of ’80s & ’90s action flicks starring Stallone, Seagal, Van Damme, Schwarzenegger and the like, I assert that many of those movies would’ve benefited from their own dance numbers.
Dabangg‘s plot is formulaic, with the requisite love story and predictable double-crosses. Chulbul falls in love with a woman, Rajjo (Sonakshi Sinha), who encourages him to reconcile with his estranged stepbrother, Makhi (Arbaaz Khan), and his step-father. Little does Chulbul know that Makhi is secretly working for Cheddi Singh (Sonu Sood), the corrupt politician from whom Chulbul stole in the opening sequence.
Dabangg is well-paced and doesn’t linger over Chulbul’s emotional development. He grows as a character, but the majority of his time is spent fighting, engaging in political intrigue, and dancing.
The dancing alone makes Dabangg a worthwhile movie for American fans of action flicks who like a little levity mixed in with their butt-kicking. Plus, the subtitles add an air of sophistication. Tell your friends you’re seeing a foreign film, even if you’re really just going for the shootouts.