Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Bipasha Basu, Bobby Deol, Omi Vaidya, Vinod Khanna, Shikander Kher, Johnny Lever
You assume certain things in an Abbas-Mustan film – for instance, the lead characters have endlessly valid international driving licences, the cops are always on holiday. You also prepare yourself for a dozen stock shots from five different angles of skimpily dressed hotties and beefy dudes walking in slow motion. In a world where it’s hard to distinguish between 'Dhoom', 'Race' and 'Players', all of which do or will have sequels, the latest offering has the dubious distinction of making Bipasha Basu sweat as she works on an engine. However, it puts her in a bikini or less soon enough.
'Players' takes us to Amsterdam, where jewellery store owners have not watched enough Bollywood movies to realise that thieves usually hoist themselves over windows when you think they’ve jumped off. So, we know this is yet another movie with morons for victims, cars that look like daschunds, and girls that look like Playmates.
We next travel to Russia, where Aftab Shivdasani and a bizarre Russian mafia gang that drives large cars and carries pretty wreaths make their first guest appearance. Shivdasani earns his 15 seconds of fame giving us a short lesson in the history of the First World War, during which, as a stern-faced Charlie (Abhishek Bachchan) learns, some gold belonging to Romania landed up in Russia. It’s worth Rs 10,000 crore now, and is waiting to be stolen by “players”.
The players will be supplied by Victor “Dada” Braganza (Vinod Khanna), an affable thief with multiple affiliations — an adoring police fan circle, a grateful thief student circle, and an annoyingly bubbly, moralistic daughter Naina (Sonam Kapoor). So it is that Ronnie (Bobby Deol), Riya (Bipasha Basu) and Spider (Neil Nitin Mukesh) join the chase. They’re aided by makeup-man-and-joker-of-the-pack Sunny (Omi Vaidya) and bomb expert Bilal (Sikander Kher). Thankfully, we’re spared the azan when Bilal appears.
The film appears to laugh at Bollywood’s tendency to break into song when anyone’s horny, and then does exactly that for three hours. A series of forgettable songs gives Bipasha, Sonam and nameless blonde Russian chicks a chance to cling on to each of the men in turn.
The men acquiesce, though they’re preoccupied with such trifles as quadriplegic daughters, double-crossing agendas, and promises made to dead gurus. The only woman who’s rejected is the partner of a dead colleague, who rolls about in a black bikini right after his funeral — it’s not very gentlemanly to swoop in on your best friend’s hot spoils, Charlie explains patiently.
Most of the comedy is unintentional. One death was so hilarious that I burst out laughing. That paled in comparison to some exceptionally considerate behaviour by the Players, who decide to drive their cars at a tilt to avoid running over participants in a wheelchair race, and later bleed for orphaned children. The intentional comedy is spearheaded by Johnny Lever, in a double-role as the twins MC and BC — you’ll only find that funny if you clutch your sides over ‘asset’.
'Players' is not without redeeming features — the instances of bad graphics are rarer than in most films of its genre, the antagonist and his rival are well-chosen, and the Russians don’t understand Hindi. But the film is too slow-paced for a heist thriller. Its most exciting half is pre-interval, and the second half is punctured by back-stories and tiresome twists.